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Most people (60%) who are exposed to the fungus Coccidioides never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms that go usually away on their own after weeks to months. Symptoms of valley fever include:
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches or joint pain
- Rash on upper body or legs
Symptoms of valley fever may appear between 1 and 3 weeks after a person breathes in the fungal spores and usually last for a few weeks to a few months.
Approximately 5 to 10% of people who get valley fever will develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs. In an even smaller percent of people (about 1%), the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, or bones and joints. This type of infection can be very serious and is sometimes fatal.
People get sick by breathing in a form of the Valley Fever fungus called spores. Spores are too small to be seen. They can get into the air with dust when it is windy or when dirt is disturbed. In extremely rare cases, the fungal spores can enter the skin through a cut, wound, or splinter and cause a skin infection.
Valley Fever cannot be spread from one person to another or from an animal to a person.
Anyone can get Valley Fever, even young and healthy people. People who live, work, or travel in areas with high rates of Valley Fever may be a higher risk of getting infected than others, especially if they:
- Participate in recreational activities where dirt and soil are disturbed
- Work in jobs where dirt and soil are disturbed, including construction, farming, military work, and archaeology.
Some groups are at greater risk for severe and disseminated Valley Fever. These include:
- Older adults (≥60 years old)
- African Americans, Filipinos, and Hispanics
- Pregnant women especially in the later stages of pregnancy
- People with diabetes
- People with conditions that weaken their immune system such as:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Treatment with chemotherapy or steroids
- Organ transplant