Valley Fever – Diagnosing and Treating Coccidioidomycosis
Valley fever is a fungal infection. It is also called Coccidioidomycosis. The causative fungus is Coccidioides Immitis. It is endemic in some parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, San Joaquin, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
How Do You Get Infected?
The spores of this fungus are inhaled through the nose to enter our body. Subsequently, the whole respiratory tract gets infected.
The fungus affects the nose, throat and the lungs. Symptoms experienced are as follows:
- Cold/ flu- like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Pneumonia, in cases where the lungs are affected.
However, many a times the fungal spores reside in the respiratory tract giving no symptoms at all. This happens especially when the immune strength of a person is good. Most fungal infections behave like that. They flare up in states of weak/ compromised immune systems only.
So the chances of having symptoms with coccidioidomycosis are more in the following conditions:
- Reduced immune state as in cancer patients
- Patients on radiotherapy or chemotherapy
- If steroids (like prednisone) are are being taken for some other illness like autoimmune disorders- Multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, SLE etc.
- Pregnancy, particularly the first trimester
- Poor nutritional state
Though the infection primarily affects the respiratory system, other systems may get secondarily involved. This happens when this fungal infection grows and the spores enter the blood stream via the lungs. Spores reach various areas like bones, joints, muscles and even the nervous system to give symptoms there. They may also enter the lymphatic system and cause enlargement of certain lymph nodes.
Usually no treatment is required unless the patient has a weak immune system. The patient is advised to take rest, adequate hydration and nutritious diet as in any other type of flu.
In severe cases, as in weak immune status conditions, anti-fungal therapy may be given. Drugs like amphotericin B, fluconazole or itraconazole are used. The dosage is decided according to the age and body weight of the patient.