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Valley Fever: Lurking In The Dust


A BBC news magazine article published in July 2013, called it "Valley Fever, an incurable illness in the dust".[1] Pretty scary sounding - especially for those of us who live in hot dry dusty areas of the country.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report from March 2013 reports that the incidence of coccidioidomycosis (otherwise known as Valley Fever) has increased dramatically, from 5.3 per 100,000 to 42.6 per 100,000 over the course of 13 short years. In the states of Arizona and California the number of reported cases has almost doubled.[2]

The disease is found mainly in hot dry climates like the deserts of Mexico and South America, and like the deserts in the Southwestern United States.

Arizona reports 66% of the annual cases of Valley Fever. Southern California reports 31%. The remainder are scattered across Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, with another cluster in southern Washington.[3]

The University of Arizona shows the following map of endemic areas on its website:
vfever2 vfever1

Endemic areas, as reported by the CDC: – Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas.

vfever4An article published in March of 2014 entitled Valley Fever on the rise in Texas, possible solutions lack funding write about a 56 year old patient on dialysis because of kidney damage caused by the drug used to treat his Valley Fever contracted in high school.

Researchers in Texas estimate that 10% of the population has the fungus in their bodies, without necessarily having symptoms. Their grant application to the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine was denied.

So what causes some people to become desperately - even fatally - ill, and others simply to incorporate the virus and live in peace with it?

There are no proven answers, according to the medical literature. We talk about treatment with fungus-killing drugs, and with vaccines against the disease. Unfortunately the spores of coccidioidomycosis may lie dormant as spores for years, before they are inhaled into the moist warm environment of the lungs - where they change into their active fungal form, and flourish - unless the cells of the immune system gobble them up first.

One would think that if one had a healthy immune system, with excellent natural killer cell activity, and superb cellular immunity, then Valley Fever would not be a problem. We would simply control the number of spores before they grew into an overwhelming mass.

We do know that people with HIV, and people with organ transplants on immunosuppressants are very susceptible to any infection, fungal or otherwise.

Forty percent of people who are infected with coccidioidomycosis will develop symptomatic disease within one to four weeks of exposure - typically a flu-like illness. Most of these will go on to heal, but a small percentage will develop disseminated disease and become very ill indeed. Symptoms may occur in any part of the body - heart, brain, kidney, skin, joints, bones.

In 2009 over 10,000 cases were reported to the CDC in Arizona alone.

Diagnosis is made by laboratory testing, using a simple blood test available through any standard laboratory like Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp.

Valley Fever may well be the cause of 30% of community-acquired pneumonia. The diagnosis would be easily confirmed by blood testing for antibodies. Cough, fever and/or exhaustion are the criteria used to prompt testing. Hospital charges in patients with active Valley Fever totalled $86 million in Arizona in 2007. Three fourths of people diagnosed with valley fever missed at least 2 weeks of work because of the illness.[4]

How is Valley Fever treated? Amphotericin B used to be the primary drug used - and may still be the most effective. It has to be given by intravenous administration, and is extremely toxic to kidneys and liver. We use primarily fluconazole (Diflucan®) now, because it is usually effective, and easily administered orally. Some patients take the drug for years, to keep the infection suppressed. It is recommended for serious infection (lungs, brain) that treatment be continued indefinitely, since relapse is common when treatment is discontinued.

Currently a drug called Nikkomycin Z is undergoing clinical trials at the University of Arizona.[5] If the trials are successful the drug might be available commercially by 2020 - now that the FDA approval has finally been "fast-tracked".

It is thought that when people recover from infection with coccidioidomycosis, they are able to establish permanent immunity to further infection. Efforts are underway to develop a vaccine - so far unsuccessfully.


At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine we can make the diagnosis and initiate treatment with pharmaceutical medication. At the same time, we improve the function of the immune system, using both pharmaceutical and botanical treatments to improve NK cell function, and fill in the nutritional potholes which caused the malfunction of the immune system in the first place. We restore the function of mitochondria, the cellular energy factories, so that energy is restored, muscles no longer ache, and brain fog becomes a distant memory.

We evaluate for multiple systemic infections - since infection with fungus is almost always accompanied by infections with other organisms which may hide away from the immune system. Because of our chronic exposure to unhealthy chemically-laden foods and drinks, our underlying metabolic function can become so poor that we become very susceptible to systemic infection with all kinds of organisms - not just fungi, but also viruses, bacteria, parasites, even spirochetes like those which cause Lyme disease.

We help you clean up your metabolic system and help you supply the nutrients your body needs to heal itself.

Call us at 480-240-2600 to set up a free 15-minute consultation, to determine whether our Center can help you get healthy again.


[2] Hector RF et al. The Public Health Impact of Coccidioidomycosis in Arizona and California. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Apr 2011; 8(4): 1150-1173.

[3] Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Increase in Reported Coccidioidomycosis - United States, 1998-2011. Downloaded 10-04-14.

[4] Hector RF et al. The Public Health Impact of Coccidioidomycosis in Arizona and California. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Apr 2011; 8(4): 1150-1173.