Valley Fever: What are the Signs and Symptoms

  • Valley fever is spreading and scientists project it will continue to expand east due to climate change.
  • Symptoms depend on the stage of the disease and which organs are impacted.
  • There is currently no cure, but symptoms can be managed and a vaccine is under development.

Experts are sounding the alarm about the spread of a fungal infection called Valley fever.

While Valley fever is typically found in the Southwest, scientists say it has spread as global temperatures have gone up.

One 2019 studyTrusted Source in GeoHealth found that due to climate change, Valley fever could move east, expanding all the way to the Canadian border before 2100.

Here’s everything you need to know about this fungal infection.

What is Valley Fever?

Valley Fever is coccidioidomycosisTrusted Source, which is a fungus that exists in different forms in nature in the soil (where it exists as a mold) and in the human body. The fungus is endemic in dry regions, mainly in the southwestern US and Latin America.

In soil, it forms light spores which are carried by the wind and can be inhaled and infect the lungs. The infection of the lungs is often asymptomatic and others can develop an influenza-like illness with fever and cough.

This syndrome has been called different names in different regions including Valley fever or desert rheumatism. But it tends to subside spontaneously, Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and associate chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at UCSF/ San Francisco General Hospital, told Healthline.

However, coccidioidomycosis can be more serious, causing nodules and cavities in the lungs and even disseminated disease in the central nervous system, which can result in meningitis. If it affects the bones and joints it can lead to arthritisTrusted

Disseminated disease is rare and risk factors including pregnancy, certain race and ethnicities (e.g. Filipino/a or African American) and advanced HIV infection or other immunosuppressed people are at high risk, Gandhi added.

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