Valley fever is a regional disease, specifically in the southwest and west regions of the U.S. One particular region that is considered a “ground zero” for valley fever is Arizona.
But despite Arizona’s location as a hot spot for valley fever, general knowledge about the disease isn’t widespread. Ask five different Arizonans what valley fever is, and you’re likely to get five different answers – and there’s a good chance none of the responses would be correct!
Urgent Care Extra’s fever treatment services include medication and medical attention for symptoms of valley fever, which we’ll review in a minute. Before jumping ahead, let’s go over what exactly valley fever is, who is most susceptible and different ways to avoid it.
What Is Valley Fever?
Contrary to the name, valley fever isn’t exclusively prevalent in valleys, and it doesn’t necessarily cause fever-like symptoms all the time. Thus, the name is somewhat misleading. Valley fever is actually caused by a fungus (called “coccidioides”) that is present in much of the dirt and soil in the U.S. southwest, and also some western states.
Valley fever is transmitted through breathing. Tiny airborne fungal spores containing coccidioides, when inhaled, can take hold in the lungs, where the disease starts to spread throughout the body.
A widespread misconception about valley fever is how the disease is transmitted. It’s not contagious, so it’s impossible to get it from another “carrier,” whether a person or animal.
But how does the fungus in the soil get into the air? Whenever the soil is disturbed, the fungal spores travel through the soil’s dust and into the air. Construction projects, road work and even gardening are three man-made ways valley fever becomes airborne. But Mother Nature can also spread Valley Fever. Earthquakes, dust storms and high desert winds (especially those in places like Arizona, Nevada and southeastern California) have also been known to create conditions called “valley fever season.”
Confirmed cases of valley fever are usually around 20,000 per year in the U.S. There were about 18,000 cases in 2012, according to the CDC, with an annual increase of the disease around 15%. But the “true” impact of valley fever is much greater, because many people associate valley fever with the cold or flu.
What Types of Symptoms Does Valley Fever Produce?
Initial symptoms start to surface about two weeks after initial exposure to the fungal spores. Symptoms are remarkably similar to the flu. The most common signs of valley fever are:
- Mild to severe fever
- Joint discomfort
- Chest pain
- Moderate cough
- Trouble sleeping (including sweating)
- Mild to severe headache
- Lethargy / tiredness
- Red rash (typically on the calves and shins, but also on the back, arms and chest)
Valley fever can take a few weeks to recover from. Most people (those with normal-functioning immune systems) will not get the disease a second time. But anyone with immunity issues (organ transplant patients, autoimmune diseases, etc.) can get valley fever more than once.
Treatments vary, depending on how severe symptoms are. Interestingly, anti-fungal medications have been known to speed recovery from valley fever.
How Can You Avoid Valley Fever?
Unfortunately, if you live in the southwest U.S., there is no 100% effective protocol to completely avoid valley fever. A few courses of action can reduce – though not entirely eliminate – your chances of getting valley fever:
- Consider a career change. If you make your living as a heavy equipment operator outdoors, are part of a construction crew or involved with the southwestern soil more than most people, you’re more likely to catch valley fever. If symptoms affect you more than most, or if your immune system isn’t working at full capacity, it might be time to work elsewhere – preferably in an office environment.
- Stay inside, whenever possible. Valley fever is caused by the mere act of breathing outside. Thus, staying inside is one of the best strategies for never getting it in the first place. However, you’ll have to venture outside at some point, so…
- Try a face mask. If you’re going to be in areas with heavy construction, or the forecast calls for heavy winds and you’ll be outside more than usual, a filter face mask is always a good idea.
Along with valley fever treatment, Urgent Care Extra’s robust healthcare services cover both immediate and long-term needs. As one of Arizona’s largest and most trusted networks of walk-in clinics in the region, we’re able to handle all of your medical care requirements. Stop in to any of our medical clinics throughout Arizona. We offer no appointment necessary convenience, extended hours, flexible insurance and payment options and much more.
Don’t let valley fever derail your summer plans. Stop in to any UCE clinic for immediate relief from your symptoms – and a plan to keep you healthy moving forward. For more information about valley fever, or if you’d like to inquire more about our unique medical plans, please call Urgent Care Extra at (480) 988-9108. Thanks for stopping by the UCE blog! Stay tuned for other helpful tips and healthcare advice.