Benjamin J. Park, MD
Valley fever can be a debilitating and costly respiratory disease that is increasingly common in some areas, such as the southwestern United States. Nearly three quarters of valley fever patients miss work or school because of their illness, for an average of 2 weeks, and more than one third of patients require hospitalization. In 2011, more than 20,000 cases of valley fever were reported in the United States, and many more cases likely went undiagnosed.
Hello. I am Dr. Benjamin Park, a medical officer in the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I’m pleased to speak with you today about valley fever as part of the CDC Expert Video Commentary Series on Medscape.
Valley fever is caused by Coccidioides, a fungus that lives in soil in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. Inhaling the airborne fungal spores can cause a respiratory infection called coccidioidomycosis, also known as “valley fever.” The infection cannot spread from person to person.
More than 65% of valley fever cases in the United States occur in Arizona, and 30% occur in California. Of note, in recent years, the incidence of reported valley fever has been increasing by approximately 15% per year, which could be because of:
• More people being exposed to Coccidioides because of increased travel or relocation to endemic areas;
• Changes in the way cases are detected and reported; or
• Changes in environmental factors, such as temperature and rainfall, which can affect the growth and distribution of Coccidioides.