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Is there a Valley Fever vaccine?
One of Public Health’s greatest tools to fight any disease is a vaccine. The benefits of a vaccine for those living and visiting areas where Valley Fever is found will be huge. Currently, there is no vaccine available to give to people at this time.
For many diseases like measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis B, etc., the vaccine can prevent you from getting the disease after exposure to someone who is contagious. When many of the vaccines were first introduced, the number of people infected by these disease decreased dramatically. Thus, a vaccine will someday be our greatest tool to prevent people from being infected with this fungus.
The scientific community has determined that of all the fungal diseases, Valley Fever is the best one suited for the development and application of a vaccine (link to Rebecca Cox and Mitchell Magee’s paper or abstract). The development of a vaccine to fight Valley Fever has been worked on since the late 1890’s and continues to this day. The scientific community will continue to pursue the development of a vaccine to prevent this disease. The time frame for developing a vaccine cannot be estimated at this time. Many factors influence vaccine development, but one of the biggest challenges is obtaining consistent, long term funding for the scientific community. Without this, development could be decades away. For additional information about the current efforts to develop a vaccine please visit the Valley Fever Vaccine Project of the Americas (http://valleyfever.com)
Is Valley Fever passed from person to person?
Once a person becomes infected with Valley Fever they cannot pass the fungus on to anyone else by coughing, sneezing, sharing food, using the same eating utensils/drinking glass, coming in contact with the persons cloths or bedding, or any other typical way of catching a disease. There is no risk of catching this disease from a person who has the disease.
Valley Fever can only be caught by breathing in spores that are in the air that were growing in the ground. Naturally occurring winds and other activities (to a lesser extent) release the spores into the air which are then inhaled when we breathe air. After entering our body through our lungs, the fungus changes to a different from called a spherule which cannot be passed on to others. For more information on the two forms (human versus soil), see the page on Ecology of Valley Fever.
(Image was obtained from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library)
Is Valley Fever serious?
Most people infected with Valley Fever (approximately 60%) do not even know they have had the disease. The only way that individuals in this group know that they have had the disease is by performing a blood test, skin test (when available), or a chest X-ray that may demonstrate a nodule (solid mass) or cavity (hole).
For the remaining 40% infected, these individuals develop and illness that is characterized by signs and symptoms that include fever, headache, sore throat, cough, profound fatigue, and chest pain “flu-like symptoms.” Because these signs and symptoms are common in other diseases that are not caused by Valley Fever, severe headache and chest pain are more suggestive of this disease along with fatigue that can last from several weeks to months. One study done in Kern County in 1995, showed that 89% of the persons had flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, cough, etc.), 8% had bone or joint complaints, 19% had skin rashes, and 4.5% had severe disease (meningitis or skin/soft tissue infections).
Between 1% and 5% of the total infections will go on to have the severe form of Valley Fever (disseminated disease) where the fungus leaves the lung area and establishes an infection somewhere else in the body. The fungus can go to any site throughout the body when it disseminates, but it typically goes to skin or soft tissue, lymph nodes, bones and joint, and the linings of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis).
Every year a small number of people infected with Valley Fever die. The number of deaths for a single year has ranged from 0 to 25 over the past 30 years. During epidemic years the average number of deaths is 12 and during normal years the average number of deaths is 5.
Pronounced (kok-sid-e-oy-doh-my-KOH-sis), commonly known as “Valley fever”, as well as “California fever”, “Desert rheumatism”, and “San Joaquin Valley fever” is a fungal disease caused by Coccidioides immitis or C. posadasii. It is endemic in certain parts of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and northwestern Mexico.
Read our full article: Valley Fever in Kern County
In epidemiology, an infection is said to be endemic (from Greek en- in or within + δῆμος demos people) in a population when that infection is maintained in the population without the need for external inputs. For example, chickenpox is endemic (steady state) in the UK, but malaria is not. Every year, there are a few cases of malaria acquired in the UK, but these do not lead to sustained transmission in the population due to the lack of a suitable vector (mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles).