Valley Fever: Timely Diagnosis, Early Assessment, and Proper Management
How to Recognize and Prevent Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
Valley fever is a non-communicable fungal disease originating from theCoccidioidesspecies. The organisms live in the soil of semi-arid areas, such as the southwestern United States, regions of Mexico, and South America. When its spores are released into the air, they can cause lung infections, from slight to severe. If you’ve been or are going to an area affected by Valley Fever, be sure you understand the prevention measures you can take to avoid contracting the disease and the symptoms that can help you diagnose an infection.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Watch our for flu-like symptoms.Mild infections of Valley Fever often go unrecognized because they manifest themselves much like other common and seasonal illnesses. However, if you have been in an endemic area, you should pay attention to any early symptoms in order to avoid contracting a more serious form of the disease.
- The earliest symptoms of Valley Fever include fever, headaches, a persistent cough, chest pain and shortness of breath, chills, night sweats, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and red bumpy rashes, especially on the upper body or legs.
Be on the lookout for more severe infections.If your Valley Fever goes untreated, the symptoms can become more severe, and the infection can cause chronic pneumonia. If you have been experiencing a constant fever, persistent chest pains and coughing, and weight loss, you should go to the doctor immediately.
- Another telling symptom of a developing infection is coughing up mucus tinged with blood, which may indicate that you have nodules in your lungs.
Be wary of lung infections.In its most dangerous and advanced stages, Valley Fever can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, including the skin, bones, liver, brain, heart, and nervous system. At this point, you should already be in contact with your doctor, who can help you navigate these more severe symptoms.
- In its most serious “disseminated” form, Valley Fever will lead to skin sores, lesions in the skull and spine, bone and joint infections, and meningitis--an infection that affects the fluid and membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord.
Assessing Your Risk
Find out if you’ve been in an endemic area.The fungus that causes Valley Fever can be found in the soils of the southwestern United States. It’s also present in some regions of Mexico, Central America, and South America.
- In the U.S., affected states include Arizona, southern California, southern Nevada, New Mexico, western Texas, southwestern Utah, and south-central Washington. Most of the 10,000 annual cases are diagnosed in Arizona and California.
Assess your exposure to infected soils.You contract Valley Fever by inhaling microscopic fungal spores that are released into the air when soil is disturbed. If you are in an endemic area and have been exposed to dusty conditions caused by heat mixed with wind and/or manmade disturbances to the soil, you are at a greater risk of being infected.
- Construction work, agricultural labor, military field training, and archaeological exploration are examples of activities that can put you at risk of contracting Valley Fever.
Check if you’re part of a high-risk group.Not everyone who is exposed to the Coccidioides fungus will contract Valley Fever. The fungal spores can cause infections in people of any age or race, but there are certain groups of people who are more prone to infections.
- Most cases of Valley Fever occur in adults who are over 60. So, elderly people are at greater risk of infection.
- Anyone who has a weakened immune system is at greater risk of contracting the disease and developing more severe forms of it. These people include those who have HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses; expectant mothers, especially in their third trimester; and people who have had an organ transplant.
- People of African and/or Filipino descent are more susceptible to Valley Fever.
Find out if you’ve had previous exposure to Valley Fever.The symptoms are often subtle or flu-like, which means that many people never even realize they’ve had it. However, if you have already had it, you will be immune to the disease for life.
- If you have been tested for Valley Fever previously, it will show up on your medical record. If you have not been tested, you can ask your doctor for a skin test to see if you test positive for Coccidioides. If you do but have never had Valley Fever, it is likely that you are immune to it. Keep in mind that 30-60% of people living in affected areas will test positive for Coccidioides, but only about 40% of the infected population will ever present symptoms.
Check for common diseases or outbreaks.If you are planning to travel, it might be a good idea to check up on the common diseases and outbreaks in the region you are visiting. Visit the CDC’s website to determine if Valley Fever is something to worry about while you are traveling.
Avoid dusty areas in regions where the infection is indigenous.These include areas in the affected states which receive very little rainfall, particularly Arizona and California.
Avoid work and work areas where the soil is disturbed.Infections occur when people inhale spores that become airborne after disturbing contaminated soil. If you’re in a high-risk area, stay away from work zones that involve construction, excavation, and agriculture.
- This also includes domestic labor. If you’re living in an endemic region, you should consult a doctor before doing significant yardwork, gardening, construction projects, or other sorts of digging in your yard or on your property.
- If you cannot avoid working in contaminated soil, go to the doctor immediately to get their prevention recommendations. It’s likely that they’ll encourage you to wear a special mask and/or take a preventative antifungal medication to reduce your risk of infection.
Implement an air filtration system.If you live in an affected area, consider keeping your windows closed and using an air filter to ensure that the dust and dirt outside your door doesn’t invade your living space.
Stay inside during storms.Winds will kick up dust that contains the pesky fungal spores, so be sure that you find shelter that has closed windows.
Use an N95 respirator.Wear this or a miner’s mask in areas that have recently suffered a natural disaster. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and dust storms, can also disturb contaminated soil. This can cause the spores to become airborne. Use a respirator to avoid breathing in these spores.
- Normal paper masks or bandanas will not offer protection against Coccidioides since the spores are microscopic. In order to be effective, you need a respirator that will completely seal around your face and prevent particles 2-4 micrometers in size from passing through.
Clean any injuries thoroughly.Use soap and water to clean any wounds that may have been exposed to dirt or dust. This can help stop an infection from developing.
Treating the Disease
Take a sick day.For most Valley Fever infections, getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids will restore you to health. If you only have mild flu-like symptoms, a simple, at-home cure will usually suffice.
Go to the doctor.If you’re worried that you may have Valley Fever, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a medical professional. They will be able to monitor the disease and ensure that your case doesn’t worsen or advance into a disseminated form. Make sure to provide a thorough history of your travels and activities so your doctor can include a comprehensive list of possible infections and appropriate treatment/monitoring.
- Seeing the doctor will be beneficial to public health, helping researchers to track the scope and severity of the disease. It will also inform you as to whether or not you have Valley Fever and can expect to be immune to it in the future.
Get a prescription for antifungal medication.If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve upon a few day’s bed rest, go to the doctor immediately. They can help address the infection by giving you a prescription for antifungal drugs that can attack the root of the disease.
- Because these drugs have unpleasant side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, doctors will only generally prescribe them for serious or chronic cases.
QuestionHow long does this Valley Fever last if untreated?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerDepending on overall health it can last weeks to months as a mild cold, or develop into complications as mentioned above.Thanks!
||A brief, informative video concerning Valley Fever.|
- Valley Fever is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted person-to-person or animal-to-human. It is safe to be around people who are infected with the disease. Contact with those who have it does not in any way increase your likelihood of contracting it.
- Animals, particularly dogs, are also susceptible to Valley Fever. If you have pets or livestock, take the same precautions with them as you would for yourself in order to prevent them from being infected. Speak with your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have Valley Fever.
- Valley Fever is widespread in Arizona and the San Joaquin Valley area of California.
- Coccidioidesgrown in a culture in the laboratory can cause also infection if the culture is not properly handled.
Video: Arizona doctor sets up new guidelines to detect Valley Fever infection early | Cronkite News
How to Grow Cuttings from Established Plants
Your Web of Life
21 Insanely Beautiful Makeup Ideas for Prom
9Supermarket Things It’s Better Not toBeFooled bytoGet Quality Products
Free People Occasion Dresses Summer 2012
10 Side Effects Of Lemon Juice
Ayurveda in Hindi, Ayurvedic Treatment and Medicines in Hindi
11 Simple Diet Tips And A Diet Chart To Gain Weight
How to Decorate a Guest Room