Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by coccidioides organisms. It can cause fever, chest pain and coughing, among other signs and symptoms.
Two species of coccidioides fungi cause valley fever. These fungi are commonly found in soil in specific regions. The fungi’s spores can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction and wind.
The fungi can then be breathed into the lungs and cause valley fever, also known as acute coccidioidomycosis (kok-sid-e-oy-doh-my-KOH-sis). Mild cases of valley fever usually resolve on their own. In more severe cases, doctors prescribe antifungal medications that can treat the underlying infection. (Reference: Mayo Clinic)
I know most people don’t understand how I got sick. What Valley Fever/coccidioidomycosis (for short Cocci which I refer to a lot in my post) was? What I’ve been fighting now for almost a year and half.
I wanted to share some personal accounts other than my own. I think it’s more helpful to understand the severity of this infection by sharing some stories and I’ll post web-links that helped educate me as well. I have had an uncle and a Pastor that I know who survived from this deadly infection. Unfortunately, my brother in law’s girlfriends cousin passed away from it about a year ago. They were all perfectly healthy.
This is why I feel it’s important that you are aware of this infection as it can attack just about anyone: children, teens, adults, everyone. There are a more acceptable groups; those with compromised immune systems (such as organ transplant recipients such as myself), pregnant women, diabetics and African Americans and Filipinos (reasons still unknown). It can also affect animals. A friend from my son’s school shared a story of her sister’s dog fighting it. It impaired his walking for almost a year until they were able to fully get the infection out.
It starts as a fungal spore that is in dirt. This is mostly in farming areas and epidemic areas include the Bakersfield area (which I caught it from), San Joaquin Valley (which my uncle caught it from) , Arizona and areas in Mexico (Which is where the Pastor caught it from).
In my uncle’s case they looked at his x-rays and thought it could be lung cancer. In the meantime they treated him with heavy antibiotics which only made it worse. The symptoms are very similar to flu-like symptoms and can be easily misdiagnosed. This unfortunately happened to my uncle. He got very sick and took many test including a painful lung biopsy which required removing a rib. This is not necessary for getting a Cocci diagnosis. It was a bronchoscopy what finally revealed it was valley fever.
As for the Pastor, he had fallen very ill from a recent missions trip to Mexico. He thought it was tiredness from travelling and tried to return to work. I visited his church for Christmas service that year. I could see how frail and sick he was as he tried to give a Christmas message. It was not too long after that he would fall into a coma. Diagnosis: Valley Fever. The infection spread to his brain and developed meningitis. I visited him at the hospital with my mom. He was in a coma for several weeks by than. His sister is a mighty women of God and believed that her brother was coming back no matter what the doctor’s said. No matter what it look like. I tell you I was a witness to this and it was very hard to believe but her faith was contagious and I too was proclaiming His healing. After several months in a coma he woke up. He is now healthy, back to his ministry work and even travelling sharing this testimony of survival.
As for my brother in law’s girlfriend’s cousin. What I was told is that he took a road trip on his motorcycle to Las Vegas. A week after the trip he had the classic flu-like symptoms. At some point he was hospitalized. I know they aggressively treated him but it was too late.
I shared my accounts with Valley Fever in earlier post. This is a brief personal account of how I caught it. It was my first family trip to Los Angeles post transplant. We went to all these highly populated areas like Disneyland, Venice beach, etc… but it was on the way back home that we would get a flat tire on Hwy 5 (Coalinga area to be exact). Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could remember it being windy and dusty. We rushed home when we heard Daniel’s grandmother’s condition turned for the worse. She passed away. We would attend the funeral and go through all the motions of mourning. When I got sick I honestly thought I was just emotionally drained. I started to get a temperature and called my transplant social worker right away.
After five days of temperatures spiking I was finally admitted. My Infectious disease doctor wanted me to back track to all the places I been in the past 2 weeks. When I mentioned the flat tire on hwy 5, she immediately knew it was valley fever but only a bronchoscopy would reveal exactly what it was. After 5 days baking in the lab they grew out the fungus.
Even though I knew about this disease; never did I think that I would get it. I didn’t know of all the facts, the epidemic areas, the high risk population and how I became a double threat in getting this disease. I hope by sharing my story along with these other stories; it can give you now the awareness that is so needed. A disease that is not commonly heard of and known. Yet it affects so many people daily especially those who live and travel through the epidemic areas. Be aware and keep learning especially if you are a high risk group.
Click to get the full accounts of my experience: Valley Fever Category
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