What is Valley Fever?

Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis or “cocci”) is an infectious disease caused by a fungus called Coccidioides which lives in the soil and dirt in certain areas. The fungus usually infects the lungs causing flu-like symptoms. Most of the time symptoms get better on their own.  People of all races and ethnicities are at risk for Valley Fever in California. However, some racial or ethnic groups are at risk for severe Valley Fever. When Valley Fever is severe, patients may need to be hospitalized and in rare cases, the infection can spread beyond the lungs to other organs (this is called disseminated Valley Fever). African Americans and Hispanics in California have higher rates of hospitalization compared with whites, and African Americans and Filipinos appear to be at higher risk for disseminated disease.

When and where do people get Valley Fever?

Valley Fever infection can occur year- round and tends to occur in areas with dry dirt and desert-like weather conditions that allow the fungus to grow.  Cases of Valley Fever have been reported from most counties in California. Over 75% of cases have been in people who live in the San Joaquin (Central) Valley. In California, the number of reported Valley Fever cases has increased greatly since 2000, with more than 4,000 cases reported in 2012.  Outside of California, Valley Fever is found in some areas of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas, and parts of Mexico and Central and South America.

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