Valley Fever, a Respiratory Disease

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, is a respiratory disease that can be devastating and problematic to diagnosis if unaware of it. To become infected individuals breathe in microscopic Coccidioid fungal spores in the air. Although the majority of individuals who breathe in the spores do not get sick, there are several facts about valley fever that everyone should know. The fungus Coccidioid lives in soil and dust in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, Central and South America, and most recently the fungus was found in south-central Washington State (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Valley Fever is most common in Arizona and California.

In southern Arizona, valley fever causes an estimated 15-30 percent of all community-acquired pneumonias, however less than 15 percent of the patients are actually tested for valley fever, suggesting there may be more people with the disease than reported (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). The increase of risk for getting valley fever is high after weather related events such as earthquakes or dust storms. Symptoms of valley fever are very similar to the flu.

An individual will have fatigue, fever, night sweats and muscle aches among other flu-like symptoms. The incubation period is usually between one to three weeks after an individual has inhaled the fungal spores. In many cases, the symptoms disappear in a few weeks. In severe cases, the symptoms can last for years and can cause chronic pneumonia. Approximately 40 percent of individuals never show any symptoms after inhaling the spores (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

The risk for developing the severe form of valley fever is higher among individuals with weakened immune systems. This would include pregnant women, Individuals with diabetes or aids/hiv, anyone taking medications such as corticosteroids or TNF-inhibitors, black or Filipino people and anyone that has had an organ transplant. Of the percentage of people that become infected, less than one percent has the infection spread from the lungs to the rest of the body causing meningitis or infection in the bones and joints. For most individuals valley fever goes away on its own within a few weeks. Those patient groups that are high risk need to be treated with the antifungal treatment.

Early diagnosis helps to reduce anxiety and stress of having an unknown illness as well as time and money spent on unnecessary antibiotics while looking for other explanations for the illness. Each year valley fever infects thousands more individuals. Many of who do not know their sick or have such mild cases the disease is never detected. . According to “Center For Disease Control And Prevention” (2014), “In 2012, nearly 18,000 cases of valley fever were reported in the United DISEASE IN THE NEWS 3 States, and cases increased by about 15 percent each year from 1998 to 2011.

” (Ten Things to Know about Valley Fever). Reasons for the increase could be the changes in factors such as temperature and rainfall, which affect the growth of the fungus in the environment and how the spores circulate in the air. Increased travel or relocation to the southwestern United States and changes in the way cases of valley fever are being detected and reported to public health officials may have caused increase as well. Avoiding the fungus that causes valley fever can be difficult, especially if one lives in the region where the fungus is common.

Individuals should try to reduce exposure by limiting activities that disturb the soil or generate dust, such as digging or excavation in areas where the fungus lives (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). While awareness is the key to early diagnosis of valley fever, and could help avoid hundreds of missed diagnosis each year, individuals become infected. Healthcare providers should be aware that the symptoms of the disease are similar to those of other common respiratory illnesses and should consider testing for valley fever in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have visited areas where the fungus is common.

Patients should also be aware and alert their providers if symptoms arise that could be valley fever. Educating the public on disease prevention and promotion will help decrease the number of individuals infected by valley fever each year. DISEASE IN THE NEWS 4 References Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Retrieved from http://www. cdc. gov.

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