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Valley fever is a kind of lung infection that is caused due to a fungus living in the soil. The fungus responsible for the fever is known as Coccidioides immitis; while the fever is known as Coccidioidomycosis in medical terms. This disease is prevalent across southwestern parts of the United States, Mexico and some parts of central and South America.
The spores of the fungus are found in the soil and when the soil is disturbed on account of wind, agriculture, construction or natural disasters, the spores become airborne. When these spores are inhaled by the person, they enter the lungs and result in valley fever. At times, the infection can spread to other body parts, like the skin or brain. The good news is that valley fever is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person. However, even dogs, cattle, horses and llamas are susceptible to it.
Usually, it has been seen that construction workers, military personnel, archaeologists and farmers are highly prone to valley fever as they tend to work outdoor in soils and dust. In addition, people with compromised immune system, Asians, African Americans and seniors are also likely to get valley fever.
It has been seen that around 60 percent of people do not display any valley fever symptoms. However, at times, flu-like symptoms can manifest in those who are infected and these symptoms usually stay for a month. If the person is not treated for the disease, complications, like meningitis or pneumonia, may develop. Also, untreated valley fever can be fatal. After being exposed to the fungal spores, symptoms of valley fever develop after one to three weeks. The valley fever symptoms that infected people experience include fever, pain in the chest, severe cough, coughing blood, extreme tiredness, backache, headache, shortness of breath, pain in the muscles, chills, nausea, pain in the joints, loss of weight, appetite loss, night sweats, edema of the foot, ankle or leg, and red rash on the lower extremities. At times, the rash may also extend to the arms, back and chest.
Unfortunately, till now there is no method to prevent valley fever. The only way to treat this disease is through use of anti-fungal medications. If the person is not treated, the infection can spread to the skin, lymph nodes, bones, brain and spinal cord. The infection is diagnosed with the help of blood tests and X-ray, and these have to be done over a period of time to make sure that the person is completely infection-free.
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