|Valley Fever or San Joaquim Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is an infection caused from exposure to the soil fungi (mold) species Coccidioides immitis or Coccidioides posadasii.|
Larry Johnson et al. Valley Fever: Danger lurking in a dust cloud. Institut Pasteur 2014: In Press.
The most common mode of transmission is by inhaling Coccidioides spores. Coccidioidomycosis can also be spread by transplanted organs or by skin penetration. Coccidioides infections are believed to be mild and asymptomatic in about 60% of cases, while another 40% of infected patients will develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, headache, rash, muscle aches, joint pain and chronic fatigue. About 1-2% of Coccidioides infections will develop into life-threatening bloodstream disseminated disease. Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis can lead to chronic lung infections, and infections of many other organs including the skin, joints, muscles, bones, kidneys, heart and brain.
Coccidioidomycosis is found mostly in arid regions of the world such as the southwestern USA, northeastern Mexico, and in many dry regions of the central and southern Americas. Valley fever outbreaks have been related to many activities which disrupt the soil such as duststorms, earthquakes, agricultural work, construction projects, mining, filming, hiking, road and air traffic, and archeological work. Coccidioidomycosis rates have been growing in recent decades as the population of the US southwest increases rapidly. Between 1997 and 2006, Arizona Coccidioidomycosis cases more than quadrupled from 21 to 91 per 100,000 people per year. Valley fever is most common among persons of African or Filipino descent, people over 50 years of age, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems such as AIDS patients, leukemia/ lymphoma patients or malnourished patients. Valley fever is also more common in people who work in occupations exposed to dust such as agriculture, mining, construction, military personnel, and archeologists.
Early diagnosis is critical to prevent life threatening disseminated Coccidioidomycosis. Anyone developing flu like symptoms in Valley Fever endemic areas. Coccidioidomycosis may be diagnosed through chest x-rays and blood immunoassays. Treatment of serious Coccidiodies infections may require a long course of anti-fungal drugs such as amphotericin B, ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole. Research on vaccines to protect against Coccidioidomycosis have been disappointing to date. To prevent infection, face masks or respirators should be worn by people living in dusty areas or working in dust generating jobs like agriculture, mining, or construction.
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