November 15, 2010
A disease also called coccidioidomycosis or (CM) due to a fungus called Coccidioides immitis. About 40% of people infected with this fungus develop symptoms. Most often they have an influenza-like illness with fever, cough, headaches, rash, and myalgias. Usually, those people with symptoms, 8% have severe lung disease requiring hospitalization and about 7% develop disseminated infection throughout the body. Valley fever is a lung infection. A fungus becomes airborne when dust around construction areas and agricultural areas is transported by the wind. When spores are inhaled, Valley Fever can result.
Valley Fever is normally found in the Southwest part of the U.S. where temperatures are high and the soils are dry. Groups at high risk from the fungus include African-Americans and Asians, pregnant women in the third trimester, smokers, the elderly, diabetics and people with an impaired immune system. Severe disease tends particularly to strike in HIV-infected persons. The mortality is high in HIV-infected persons with diffuse lung disease. Coccidioidomycosis meningitis can lead permanent brain damage. The fungus is in the soil in semiarid areas primarily in the lower Sonoran life zone. This disease is endemic (constantly present) in the southwestern US and parts of Mexico and South America. Inhalation of airborne spores after disturbance of soil by people or natural disasters such as wind storms and earthquakes exposes people such as, construction or agricultural workers and archeologists to the dust containing the spores. A mask helps but does not provide complete protection against the fungus.
Valley Fever doesn’t seem to play favorites, with all kinds of people at equal risk. Once infected, however, certain groups seem to have more instances of it spreading to other parts of their bodies. As far as gender is concerned, men...