Before moving to Arizona I had never heard of Valley Fever. Once I arrived here I was quickly informed of this mysterious infection. One of my buyers actually warning me that my dog can get it. Another friend told me about her experience with Valley Fever, and how it felt like she had the flu for weeks, and her long recovery from it. So, what exactly is this spore that is causing people and animals to get so sick?
Valley Fever is a disease caused by a fungus (or mold) called Coccidioides. The fungi live in the soil of dry areas like the southwestern U.S. You get it from inhaling the spores of the fungus. Fortunately, the infection is not contagious, so it cannot spread from person to person. However, anyone can get Valley Fever, especially those with weakened immune systems. It’s most common among older adults, especially those 60 and older. Also, people who have recently moved to an area where it occurs are at highest risk for infection.
Yikes! You mean someone like me who just moved here? Of course the questions start firing off in my head. Can I start panicking now? Should I be worried? What can I do to prevent this?
In areas like Arizona, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus simply because it is in the environment. In addition, there is no vaccine to prevent the infection. That’s why knowing about Valley fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment.
For many people, the symptoms of Valley fever will go away within a few months without any treatment. However, many healthcare providers will choose to prescribe an antifungal medication to reduce the severity of symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. The treatment is usually 3 to 6 months of fluconazole or another type of antifungal medication. Good thing AvKARE provides Unit Dose Fluconazole to all the hospitals in the Southwest region, sounds like they’re going to need it.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid breathing in Coccidioides fungal spores, and while you may not be able to prevent Valley fever completely, you can take steps to reduce your risk for developing it.
- Avoid areas where you will be exposed to dirt or dust, if possible.
- Close your windows and stay inside during dust storms.
- Avoid activities like gardening, digging, or other yard work that can expose you to fungal spores.
- Use air filters indoors.
- If you have a cut or scrape on your skin, be sure to clean the injury well with soap and water. This can help you avoid possible skin infection.
- Use AvKARE’s Waltz D to disinfect hard surfaces indoors and treat any existing mold.
Lack of awareness could be this disease’s biggest danger. You may not be able to avoid Valley Fever, but you can educate yourself and become more aware of this infectious spore.