In 1919, there was an epidemic of valley fever, affecting the state prisons of California. But before that, in 1893, valley fever was first recognized and named 'coccidioidomycosis'. Next, it was some time in 1938 in San Francisco, in the meeting of the Society of American Bacteriologists, that Dr. Ernst Charles Dickson of Stanford Medical School, a pioneer worker in valley fever, gave the first public and comprehensive account of the disease which he had been researching for 20 years.
Valley Fever Due to Place
C. immitis is found in the soil in certain parts of the Southwestern regions of the US - Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. The fungus is found in the desert areas of Southwest as well as California's San Joaquin Valley and in parts of Central and South America. Climatic conditions play quite an important role. In Arizona, more infections are likely to occur in the months of June, July and in between October to December. Especially areas with rather mild winters and arid summers make a good environment for the fungi to grow. The highly endemic areas include Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties in Arizona.
Valley Fever Due to Fungi and Environment
The valley fever fungus lives in the soil and releases its spores into the air, usually when the weather changes, or anything that disrupts the soil, such as dust storms, winds, earthquakes, construction, off-road vehicles and farming. Those who work near the soil are the ones that are most susceptible to it, especially if they have a weak immune system. This disease, however, is not passed on from person to person, but only through the air.
The fungi, Coccidioides, like plenty of other fungi, have quite a complex life cycle. This one is a mold in the soil, whose long filaments are ready to break off into spores that are thrown into the air. This happens when the soil is disturbed due to any of the above mentioned causes. Both the species of fungi, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii, are dimorphic. The spores are quite tough and are capable of surviving harsh weather conditions, such as cold, heat and drought.
There are thousands of soil particles and cocci spherules inhaled, that further go and settle in the lungs, making you feel as though you have a flu or a common cold, as they cause very similar symptoms. People with immunodeficiency and elderly people can be affected by pneumonia. The symptoms of valley fever are usually mild, resulting into occurrences of flu-like symptoms and rashes. After a few days or a bit more, the 'cold' clears up. A week or two later, however, there are painful swellings that can appear around the scalp, arms, thighs, and around the ankles. This is called 'erythema nodosum' that lasts for either a few days or up to several weeks. When it finally abates and fades, only brown spots on the skin remain. But if the infection disseminates, the pathogens can spread to any organ; many times, it is the nervous system, skin, bones and joints that get affected. If the valley fever gets to that stage, it can be quite fatal.
Alternating hot-dry and wet periods create an environment conducive for the cocci to grow and survive. When the months are hot and other organisms die on the surface, the cocci survive in the layers below. And when it rains, the fungus grows freely without having any organisms to compete with it for their survival. These fungi practically hitch-hike over miles because the spores are quite like cocoons, protecting the fungus from a lot of environmental stresses. Global warming, higher wind speeds and droughts are perfect conditions and causes for the growth and transmission of valley fever, or coccidiodomycosis.
Around 200,000 Americans suffer from valley fever every year, out of which 200 deaths are recorded every year, according to the Academy of Microbiology. For reasons that aren't thoroughly understood, valley fever affects more of African Americans, Asians, and Filipinos. Smokers and diabetics too are easily susceptible to valley fever. Pregnant women in their second and third trimesters are more prone too. Just like humans, animals are susceptible to valley fever too. Sometimes, people who are more susceptible in particular, can end up getting a more serious or even fatal illness from valley fever.
Valley fever can often go misdiagnosed, as the symptoms occur in the lung and resemble those of flu or bronchopneumonia. Even though there is no vaccine that has been discovered yet for valley fever, it can be treated by several antifungal medications. Hope the above information has enlightened you on the valley fever causes. It's always best to consult a doctor at the earliest possible moment when you take notice of any symptoms, so that the treatment for valley fever doesn't get delayed. Stay safe!