Even for those of us who live in the Southwest, Valley Fever is the type of disease that you really don’t learn about until you, or someone close to you, contracts it.
Valley Fever is the common name for the parasitic fungal disease coccidioidomycosis. It is contracted by inhaling microscopic spores that have been dislodged from the desert floor by high winds, construction, etc. Valley Fever causes symptoms in over half of the people infected. While some of those infected will have no symptoms, most will experience fever, headaches, rashes, fatigue, and lesions in nearly any part of the body.
Valley Fever gets mis-diagnosed many times, because it presents like the flu, pneumonia, Lyme disease and several other types of infectious diseases. The first doctor I saw suspected I had VF because she had been infected a few years ago. She said her doctor allowed her to cough for 3 months before prescribing the anti-fungal drugs, and didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.
It is also common for the blood test for VF to come back negative, even when a person has been infected. My first pulmonary specialist was very clear with me that my negative blood test did not rule out VF, especially since my symptoms all pointed to it. I now have two lung nodules, which occur when the body builds a capsule around the fungal spore to protect the body. For some people, the only way to confirm VF is to have the nodules/lesions removed and tested.
Another helpful Valley Fever website is Valley Fever Survivor. Here you will find information, stories and issues concerning the symptoms and effects of this serious disease.
Here a few facts about Valley Fever taken from the Valley Fever Survivor website:
– Valley Fever starts in the lungs but can disseminate (spread to cause secondary infections) to other parts of the body such as skin, bones, joints, and the meninges (the lining of the brain).
– Meningitis (the inflammation of lining of the brain) is the most lethal form of Valley Fever dissemination.
– Once a person is infected, Valley Fever never completely leaves. To date, it can not be totally eliminated from the body by any medication. There is no cure.
– Valley Fever can be a chronic illness or it can wax and wane in varying degrees.
– Whether your Valley Fever case is severe or asymptomatic, it is with you for life. It can be inactive but can activate at any time, even 45 or more years later. No long term studies have been conducted to see how many asymptomatic cases reactivate or to gauge the strength of reactivated infections.
Click on the link below to see and hear the effects of our strong dust storms here in the Southwest desert: Valley Fever Threat
Thank you so much for taking the time to learn more about Valley Fever. If you have questions for me, please send me a comment below. Have a great day!