Valley fever (or Coccidioidomycosis) is a fungal lung infection caused by organisms called Coccidioides found in the soil. In the US, it is prevalent in southwestern states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and western Texas. It is also found in parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America.
The fungal spores become airborne by anything that disrupts the soil – such as wind, construction, or farming activity. When the fungi are breathed into the lungs, it causes Valley fever with symptoms that include:
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Aching joints
- A red, spotty rash
Valley fever is most common in adults over the age of 60. Those who have a weakened immune system or diabetes, as well as pregnant women, African Americans, and Filipinos are also at higher risk.
Mild cases of Valley fever usually resolve themselves but can develop into a more serious disease such as chronic and disseminated coccidioidomycosis, which requires antifungal medication to treat the underlying infection.