Health A-Z

Valley Fever

Clinical Definition

Valley fever is a pulmonary infection that develops due to inhalation of spores from the fungus Coccidioides immitis. Native to Mexico and parts of the southwestern United States, this fungus makes spores which are found in the soil of low rainfall areas. The spores become lodged in the alveoli, which leads to inflammation and symptoms similar to the flu. Occasionally the infection can become serious, spreading to the meninges and other organs.

In Our Own Words

Valley fever is a lung infection that occurs after accidently inhaling spores from a fungus called Coccidioides immitis. The fungus is found in the soil in areas of the world that are very dry including parts of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. In some instances, the soil will be disturbed through winds or agricultural work and fungus spores float through the air.

Inhaled spores can travel to the small air sacs in the lungs, where they may grow and make more spores. Inflammation and flu like symptoms may develop. The infection is usually not life threatening, but can become more serious, especially in immunocompromised individuals such as those with advanced HIV or lymphoma, spreading to other parts of the body, such as the lining of the spinal cord or brain (coccidioidal meningitis).

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Bloody mucus
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