Valley fever is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The scientific name for Valley fever is “coccidioidomycosis,” and it’s also sometimes called “San Joaquin Valley fever” or “desert rheumatism.” The term “Valley fever” usually refers to Coccidioides infection in the lungs, but the infection can spread to other parts of the body in severe cases (this is called “disseminated coccidioidomycosis”).
Coccidioidomycosis is caused by two distinct Coccidiodies species of soil fungus, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadaii.
The infection occurs through:
Valley fever is the initial form of coccidioidomycosis infection. This initial, acute illness can develop into a more serious disease, including chronic and disseminated coccidioidomycosis.
Acute coccidioidomycosis (valley fever)
The initial, or acute, form of coccidioidomycosis is often mild, with few or no symptoms. Signs and symptoms occur one to three weeks after exposure. They tend to be similar to flu symptoms. Symptoms can range from minor to severe, including:
If the initial coccidioidomycosis infection doesn't completely resolve, it may progress to a chronic form of pneumonia. This complication is most common in people with weakened immune systems.
Signs and symptoms include:
The most serious form of the disease, disseminated coccidioidomycosis, is uncommon. It occurs when the infection spreads (disseminates) beyond the lungs to other parts of the body. Most often these parts include the skin, bones, liver, brain, heart, and the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
Signs and symptoms of the disseminated disease depend on the body parts affected and may include:
To diagnose Valley fever, your healthcare provider may order some or all of these tests:
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