Signs & Symptoms
of Valley Fever
More than 60% of people infected with Valley Fever don't know it. They may experience mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all and recover with no medical diagnosis or treatment.
When symptoms are present, they generally show up between one to three weeks from exposure and inhalation of the fungal spore. Symptoms may by similar to those of other common illnesses.
Pneumonia-like symptoms include:
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Breathing
- Coughing Blood
Other symptoms may include:
- Profuse Night-Sweating
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Muscle and Joint Aches
(often in ankles and knees)
- Painful Red Bumps that Turn Brown (often on shins and forearms)
- Skin Lesions
- Stiff Neck
- Central Nervous System Disturbances
If you, a friend, a loved one or a pet experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or vet and ask to be tested for Valley Fever. Valley Fever can only be determined by a laboratory test ordered by a doctor.
In the majority of cases, the immune system is able to control the infection on its own. In those persons, treatment may be unnecessary, and infection produces an immunity that protects them from future infections for the rest of their lives.
For people or pets that do need treatment, there are antifungal drugs that can be given orally or by vein to control the fungus and its symptoms. In cases where Valley Fever has created abscesses in the skin, lungs, bones or joints, surgery may be required to remove or drain infected areas. While the antifungal medications or naturally developed immunity can control an infection, there is presently no cure for Valley Fever.
VALLEY FEVER IN PEOPLE
About 150,000 infections of Valley Fever occur in the southwestern U.S. each year. While there are those whose symptoms are so mild they are often mistaken for the common cold, approximately one-third of infections results in self-limited, although often protracted, respiratory illnesses. In a small percentage of people the illness is more serious and potentially lethal.
Infection occurs when a spore is inhaled. Within the lung, the spore changes into a larger, multicellular structure called a spherule. The spherule grows and bursts, releasing endospores which develop into spherules. Valley Fever symptoms generally occur within three weeks of exposure. Valley Fever is not a "contagious" disease, meaning it is not passed from person to person. Second infections are rare.
Valley Fever can be disabling and sometimes even fatal when it spreads to the bones, skin, spinal cord and brain. About 30,000 Arizonans a year are sick enough to seek medical care because of Valley Fever.
Valley Fever Statistics:
- Three out of four people who are diagnosed with Valley Fever in Arizona were not able to return to work for more than one month.
- Half of those diagnosed with Valley Fever were sick for more than six months.
- One quarter needed more than 10 visits to the doctor to manage their illness.
- 40% required hospitalization.
- 30 - 40 Arizonans die from Valley Fever each year.
- In 2007, hospital expenses alone related to Valley Fever reached $86 million and estimated medical and economical impact could easily reach $200 million or more; 30 - 40 Arizonans die from Valley Fever each year.
While Valley Fever is incurable, there are antifungal drugs that patients can take, in some cases, for the rest of their lives in order to keep the disease's symptoms to a minimum.