How Did I Get Valley Fever?

This is a continuation from my posts, a journey to finding out what's going on with my health. 

Emergency Department at St. Joseph Hospital
St. Joseph Hospital

How did I get Coccidiodomycosis also known as Valley Fever?

After almost 3 months of being sick, and several test done, I finally got a diagnosis to one of my active problems - three more to go. Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis also known as Valley Fever.  Ok, so how, when, and where did I get Valley fever? a fungal infection? And what is Valley fever?

On July 7th, I admitted myself to the Emergency Room at St. Joseph Hospital here in Bellingham, Washington per my doctor's order. I've met with the CDC Infectious Disease Doctor and went over a result from my lymph node biopsy. First question he asked was "are you from California or Arizona?" I am not but I've been there recently.

He said that with the biopsy, they found DNA of Valley fever yeast although it needs more test to confirmed, he is sure it is what's making me sick. The test is not what they usually use to diagnose but the biopsy is pretty reliable. The result shows bacteria and evidence of fungus Coccidioides being there. I got my blood test and it came back positive for Valley fever.

Valley fever start with the lung and can spread to the rest of the body and can affect many organs. Usually can be treated with fluconazole  but the treatment could be long maybe months or years in my case. What I have going on with my abdomen could be related to it but, it could be a different problem on its own. More test, I guess?

Hospital Food
Hospital Food
Smoked turkey sandwich with Cantaloupe, Apple Juice, and Whole Milk 
I asked for food because I was hungry. It was afternoon and don't know how long I'll be in the ER. 

What is Coccidioidomycoses or Valley fever? 

Valley fever or coccidioidomycosis is a  Coccidioides fungus that lives in soil and only grows in certain regions. Here in the United States the Coccidioides lives in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and southcentral Washington. The fungal spores are so small that can be easily inhaled and can cause infections.  Once it enters a person body the symptoms usually shows up between 1 to 3 weeks. The symptoms will last up to few months

 What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle Aches
  • Joint Pain

Is Valley fever contagious? 

No, not person to person. However if a person was with me when I inhaled that fungus, the possibility is they'll get it too. But for most people who inhaled the fungus won't even get sick. For other people that get sick, they'll usually get over it without treatment. Filipinos (like me) and people of African heritage are most susceptible to this fungal infection. 

Who gets Valley fever?

  • Anybody can get it but most common on adults 60 years and older
  • Pregnant person
  • Person with diabetes 
  • People whos immune system is suppressed or compromised.
  • Filipinos and African heritage are the most susceptible to this fungal infection. 

Treatment for Valley Fever

Most people that get it don't need any medication because the symptoms will disappear on its own. However, for people (like me) who have serious infections an antifungal medications (Fluconazole) prescribe by doctor is needed. The treatment could last between 3 months to years depending of how severe the infection has spread in your body.

When to call your doctor?

Call your doctor when you have flu like symptoms that last more than a week and you live in the area or been to the region where the coccidiodes fungal lives. Blood test can diagnose if you have a fungus infection. 

Can you get Valley Fever again?

No. Once you have it, your immune system will protect you. You will have immunity. It is very rare but someone could get it again if their immune system is weakened or compromised.

Map of US where Valley Fever can be found
Valley Fever Maps 
from CDC webpage
Map of where coccidiodes fungus lives 

Here is where I thought I got the Valley Fever

In my case, I have a pretty good idea where I might have inhaled the fungus in the air. Based on the timeframe, I was in Bullhead City, Arizona. We stayed 5 days at one of the beautiful RV resort in the area.  There is this big open space just below the park, it's dirt and gravel hills, a run off area for flash flood, and some small shrubs perfect for walking the dog and for hiking.

Bullhead City, Arizona
Behind the RV resort where I went for walk with my dog few times

During our stay at the resort, I went walked there with my dog  several times, just me and the dog thank goodness. I went off the trail and I remember just standing there on top of the hill and just admiring the beautiful view of the Colorado River and the panoramic view of Bullhead City and Laughlin City. I was also picking up some rocks and looking at them, admiring the color pattern. I believed that by doing that and disturbing the ground plus the dust from Sandy's trail,  I've inhaled this nasty fungus called Coccidioides or Valley fever. 

Enjoying the view of Laughlin and Bullhead city
Looking over Laughlin and Bullhead City

But I could have also gotten it from Fort Mohave Arizona in the RV park we were in just before we moved to Bullhead City. I remember there was a windstorm and I took Sandy out to the dog park and it was dusty. I might inhaled the nasty fungus from there. 

Fort Mohave
It's where I took my dog 

I guess I will never know where exactly I have gotten it from, what I know for sure now is that I have this fungal infection that's been living inside me for almost 3 months now. I'm just glad that I'm on medication now that will cure the fungal infection on my body.  

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