Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by exposure to the spores of the Coccidioides fungus. The fungus is most common in the southwestern region of the United States, affecting people in hot, dry climates such as Arizona, California and New Mexico. Although Valley fever may not always lead to serious or long-term complications, the risks are significant.
Understanding the most common symptoms helps you identify a potential infection so you can seek treatment if necessary.
1. Fever and fatigue
Persistent fever and prolonged, extreme physical fatigue are early indications of Valley fever. It may begin gradually and likely persist for several weeks. If you develop an unexplained fever, seek medical attention to rule out Valley fever.
2. Cough and chest pain
A persistent cough is another common symptom of Valley fever. In some cases, the cough is dry, though it may be productive. For many people, the cough persists for weeks or months. This chronic respiratory discomfort may also result in chest pain.
3. Shortness of breath
The respiratory effects of Valley fever can also lead to shortness of breath. It can hinder your ability to enjoy your normal routine and might limit your physical activities.
4. Joint and muscle aches
Valley fever may lead to joint pain and muscle aches. Persistent discomfort and joint pain can interfere with your mobility and daily life. Any such pain and discomfort, especially if accompanied by any other Valley fever symptoms, warrants a medical evaluation.
5. Skin rash
Valley fever creates a distinctive rash that can help to identify its presence. In most cases, the rash appears as red, raised bumps on the chest and lower legs. Many infections also result in itchiness and discomfort in the affected areas where the rash develops.
While most moderate cases of Valley fever resolve on their own with little concern, serious complications can arise. In 2019, the CDC recorded over 20,000 cases of infections in the U.S., which illustrates the importance of vigilance and early medical intervention.