Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Coccidioidomycosis
This disease is also known as valley fever, an infectious fungal disease caused by inhaling bacterial spores, which may be either acute or chronic. It is endemic in hot, dry areas of the U.S. Southwest such as Central and San Joaquin valleys and desert areas of California, as well as areas of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, West Texas, and New Mexico. A person who lives in one of these areas is quite likely to be affected by valley fever. For example, almost 60 percent of the residents of Bakersfield, Kern County, California, have positive skin tests for valley fever. (A positive skin test means the person has had an infection and has developed immunity to the fungus, and will never contract valley fever again.) The disease is also found in Mexico, Central America, and South America. It is a disease associated with AIDS. Animals can develop the disease-especially horses, cattle, dogs, and llamas. Cats are not usually affected. Coccidioidomycosis is also known as desert fever, desert rheumatism, or San Joaquin fever.
Cause - The bacterial spore Coccidioides immitis, which is carried on windborne dust particles, is the cause of the disease. The cocci fungus lives in a sort of hibernation in alkaline soil, blooming when weather conditions are good. When it blooms, the tiny spores are stirred by wind or other movement and become airborne, floating in the air for many miles. When a person or animal who is not immune breathes them in, the spores enter the lungs and cause an infection. In general, the more spores inhaled, the more serious the infection.
Symptoms - About two weeks after inhaling the spores, the lungs become infected. At first, the disease resembles a flulike illness that primarily involves the lungs, with fatigue, aching, chills, sweats, fever, headache, and cough. Symptoms can be mild, never amounting to more than a slight cold (about 60 percent of all. of cases are the mild variety). The remaining 40 percent have more severe symptoms, eventually spreading throughout the body. Along with the flulike symptoms, these patients experience skin rash and joint aches (especially the knees). Dark-skinned patients appear to have more severe symptoms and to have the disease spread to other parts of the body. However, the most serious form that valley fever takes, when it infects the lining of the brain called cocci meningitis, is most likely to occur in Caucasian males. Cocci meningitis is the form most likely to end in death.
Diagnosis - The diagnosis can be confirmed if the patient has recently visited an endemic area, and if the fungus has been identified in sputum, body fluid, or tissue.
Treatment - Most patients with valley fever don't need to be treated. However, those whose disease has spread to other parts of the body need medication. Ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole are all antifungal agents approved for the treatment of valley fever. The most effective medication for treating valley fever infections is amphotericin B. Abscesses in soft tissue, bone, and joints may need to be drained, and bone infections may need to be removed.
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