Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) is caused by exposure to certain soil borne fungi. Those fungi, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii, grow primarily in soils of arid and semiarid areas of the western hemisphere.
Valley fever, an acute form of coccidioidomycosis, is an infection of the lungs. The infected person may have no symptoms or may experience fever, chills, cough, chest pain, and possible rash. The disease is infrequently diagnosed. The primary infection may heal completely without complications, or it may leave lung fibrosis, calcification of pulmonary lesions, or a persistent thin-walled cavity. In some cases, a chronic pulmonary infection may persist.
In rare cases, the disease may spread to other parts of the body, a serious condition known as disseminated coccidioidomycosis. The disseminated form of the disease, which is potentially fatal, is characterized by lung lesions and abscesses throughout the body, especially in subcutaneous tissues, skin, bone, peritoneum, testes, thyroid, and the central nervous system. A chronic form of coccidioidal meningitis may also develop.
Infection occurs by inhaling airborne fungal spores. The fungal spores become airborne when contaminated soil is disturbed by natural phenomenon (such as wind storms, dust storms, and earthquakes) and human activities (such as construction and agricultural). Infections occur more frequently in summer.
The incubation period for primary infection may run from one to four weeks. People from nonendemic areas are at greater risk of infection. Those who have recovered from primary infections typically develop immunity.
Disseminated coccidioidomycosis may develop years after exposure, even if there were no recognized symptoms of primary pulmonary infection. The disseminated form of the disease develops in an estimated 1/1000 of symptomatic cases of coccidioidomycosis. Populations at a higher rate of risk for the disseminated disease include people of African, Asian, or Filipino descent, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women in their third trimester.
Employers should take steps to protect workers who are potentially exposed. Control measures in endemic areas include dust control (such as wetting of soil), use of air-conditioned/filtered cabs on heavy equipment, and use of respirators. Employees that work in occupations with potential exposure should receive training on the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Individuals that develop symptoms of Valley Fever should seek medical care and let their doctor know if they live, work, or have traveled in an area where Valley Fever is endemic. A sputum smear or culture and/or a blood test can be used for diagnosis of the disease.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.