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What is Valley Fever
Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) is an infection caused by a fungus primarily found in the soil of the semi-arid desert regions of the southwestern United States, although the geographic range is expanding. People and animals get Valley Fever by breathing in the fungal spores in the environment. It is not contagious and cannot spread from one person or animal to another. Valley Fever primarily affects the lungs but, especially in dogs, can spread to other areas of the body, such as the bones, eyes or nervous system.
Valley Fever in the News
Getting closer to a vaccine to prevent Valley Fever in dogs
Valley fever, historically found only in the Southwest, is spreading. It can have devastating consequences.
What is Valley fever? Fungal infection from the Southwest may spread with climate change.
How the U.S. Can Get Ahead of a Spreading Disease Caused by Fungal Spores
A Vaccine Against Valley Fever Finally Works—for Dogs
‘The Last of Us’ Come Alive: Fungi Are Adapting to Warmer Temperatures
Deadly Fungi Are the Newest Emerging Microbe Threat All Over the World
Lifecycle of Valley Fever Fungus
Where is Valley Fever found?
Arizona and California desert communities have the highest concentration of cases. Experts predict this geographic area will continue to expand due to climate change and the increasing rate of new building construction which can release spores from the soil.
As of 2021, more than 25 million dogs live in areas where coccidioides spores can be found
Projections based on Expansion of Coccidioidomycosis Endemic Regions in the United States in Response to Climate Change
Who can get Valley Fever?
Whether you live or vacation in endemic areas, any mammal who spends time where Valley Fever occurs can become infected by breathing in fungal spores. The fungus infects easily through inhalation and can even make healthy people and animals sick.
Forms of Valley Fever
The primary (pulmonary) disease form is limited to the lungs. Signs of primary Valley Fever can include a harsh dry cough, fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy or depression. These signs usually occur about three weeks after infection, although sometimes the organism can lay dormant in the body for up to three years before signs occur.
In the disseminated form, disease spreads to other parts of the body. The bones and joints are most often affected leading to reluctance to move, lameness, and swollen, painful joints. Other signs are non-specific and may include lack of appetite, lethargy, or depression, a persistent fever, and weight loss. Infection can occur in the eye causing inflammation and sometimes blindness. In rare cases, the fungus invades the brain, resulting in behavior changes or seizure activity.
Symptoms of Valley Fever
If your pet has any of these signs, contact your veterinarian right away.
Your veterinarian will start with a thorough history and physical examination of your pet. They may recommend blood tests including a complete blood count, chemistry panel (to check organ function) and Valley Fever titer test. Additionally, radiographs of the chest and/or bones may need to be done.
Depending upon your pet’s clinical signs, other tests such as ultrasound-guided biopsies or MRI may be recommended. Diagnosing and monitoring Valley Fever cases will often require repeated titer tests and follow up diagnostics.
Treatment & Prognosis
In most cases, your veterinarian will prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication for your pet. Uncomplicated infections involving only the lungs usually respond well to appropriate anti-fungal therapy. Treatment duration varies based on severity of disease. Animals with Valley Fever that has spread to the bones or the brain or complicated respiratory disease often require prolonged drug treatment, sometimes for life. In the most severe cases, the prognosis is uncertain even with the best care.
A potential first-ever vaccine for systemic fungal infections
Deletion of disease-causing gene allows for use as a preventative vaccine
Designed to be given as an injection—the same way dogs receive other vaccines
Learn more about Valley Fever
Watch one of our live or on-demand lectures and get CE credit.
Valley Fever In Dogs and Cats
Think Outside the Desert
Advances in Vaccine Technology - Pioneering a Preventive for Valley Fever
Pioneering a Preventive for Valley Fever in Dogs
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FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA HEALTH SCIENCES
An educational resource with reliable and timely information about Valley fever, in dogs and people.