• What is Valley Fever and how do you get it?
o Valley Fever is a fungal infection, caused by a specific fungus called Coccidioides. It lives in the soil in certain parts of the world, and here it is the area between Phoenix and Tucson that is really a very hot area for this.
o It is also intensely endemic in the area of Bakersfield, CA.
o This fungus causes an infection if you inhale the spore, and that happens when things dry out and before the summer rains here.
o If you inhale a spore, you probably won’t get sick at all. 2 out of 3 infections do not cause an illness – but the other case typically causes a pneumonia. Chest pain, cough, night sweats..
o A very small percentage of people go on to have a very different form of the disease where it goes from the lungs to other parts of the body causing meningitis, body sores, etc. and need significant medical care.
• Are there certain regions or patient demographics at higher risk of getting it?
o Those with immunosuppressant conditions are most at risk for developing complications with Valley Fever – organ transplant or people with AIDS.
o Patients of African and Pilipino ancestry are at increased risk of developing problems.
• What are the best ways to protect yourself?
o There really isn’t a simple solution to protecting yourself, the risk is just living here.
o It makes sense if there is a dust storm to stay indoors and close the doors. In reality, though, the risk is not just to those that are outside in dust generated situations.
o Department of Health data shows that people that know about Valley Fever before they get sick get a diagnosis sooner than those who have never heard of it and in turn are treated quicker.
o Awareness of this disease is very valuable to improve the overall health of our communities.
• Valley Fever is not just a lung disease, how else can it impact your body?
o It is a lung disease by the way it starts in essentially all cases. You inhale the spore. But the various kinds of symptoms and findings that occur with this disease are quite varied.
One of its synonyms is ‘desert rheumatism’ because rashes and joint complaints and skeletal pain and aches are very common with this.
It can also be confused with Cancer. It goes on for a long period of time and causes masses in the lungs. And figuring out if this is due to fungus or a carcinoma of the lung is a very difficult problem to figure out.
• Other thoughts –
o It’s an unusual disease, we call it an orphan disease because it only affects certain parts of the country – and we live in one of those areas. And for us, we’re immersed in it. 1 out of 3 pneumonias are caused by Valley Fever in this area so we stand to gain the most with any improvements we make with this disease.