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What is Coccidioidomycosis?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Coccidioidomycosis, also referred to as valley fever, is a condition in which a person is infected with fungus spores. The fungus is scientifically known as Coccidioides immitis and is typically found in soil in warm regions in North, Central, and South America. The infection is generally not fatal, but it can cause complications in people whose immune systems may not be healthy enough to clear the infection, especially the elderly, children, or people suffering from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The majority of cases of coccidioidomycosis infections do not usually have many symptoms. If a person with the infection has a properly functioning immune system, his or her body will generally be able to successfully fight off the infection before it shows any symptoms. In the rare instances that the fungal infection causes symptoms, these may include chest pain, fever, difficulty breathing, cough, or itchy rashes.

Coccidioidomycosis is caused by a person inhaling spores from the Coccidioides immitis fungus. The fungus originates in soil, but can be spread into the air through the wind. People who are most likely to come into contact with the fungus spores are generally people who work outdoors near infected soil, such as construction workers or farmers. If a person breathes in air containing the fungus spores, the infection can occur in the lungs.

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There is no exact cure or treatment for coccidioidomycosis. People with healthy immune systems may never even notice the infection, so treatment is not usually necessary. For people who do experience symptoms, the only course of treatment is bed rest so the immune system can attempt to clear the infection. If someone with HIV or AIDS has coccidioidomycosis, a doctor will have to closely monitor them to ensure the infection does not become widespread and fatal.

In rare cases, the immune system may not be able to clear the infection and it may spread from the lungs to other areas of the body. The other most commonly affected areas include the bones, skin, heart, and brain. The infection can then result in stiff, inflamed joints as well as wounds on the surface of the skull and other bones. It can also cause abnormal growths underneath the skin. In the most serious cases, the infection can lead to meningitis, an infection in the protective tissues in the brain and spine that can lead to death in rare circumstances.

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