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Old 03-30-2015, 11:53 AM   #1
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Southwest USA: 'Valley Fever' cough

We had a little fun with the "chiggers" on an earlier thread, which is something we can have some control over prevention and the eventual cure.

Valley Fever... this is real.

We spent nearly five weeks in Tucson, Quartzite, Arizona and Las Vegas, Boulder City, Nevada this January to February. At Lake Mead, NV just outside Boulder City is a great campground at $5 a day for Senior National Park card holders. Not full hookup, but water and restrooms were available at the campground.

There was a period of several days of drizzle. The third day and afterward the dead appearing desert gravels began to turn green. Grass had germinated and began to poke out where it appeared lifeless. Well, so did some invisible to me, at least, FUNGUS. The "cocci fungus"

At first it appeared I had caught a upper respiratory infection. You feel a bit off and then you begin to cough, your lungs get congested. After four days you try to speak and you cough. If you have not had this before, as I never experienced it, you expect a cold virus and wait it out. My wife never showed a sign of contracting the "virus". This "cold" never left my chest to my sinuses.

The "cough, fever, sweat" come in regular daily cycles... AFTER the major episode of coughing thick mucus, when lucky. Google "Valley Fever Southwest" for symptoms. The fever feels like your head had a mild sunburn, my temperature was 100.4 degrees.

I recalled a former neighbor who moved to Tucson, Arizona for the winter and Colorado in the summer.. He said he had this cold that just would not go away on one return home to Colorado. The local Denver, Colorado doctors could not figure it out. My neighbor's wife did... Valley Fever. I diagnosed myself and am going into to see the doctor tomorrow, AM. This stuff does not seem to give up.

IF you are not a resident of the Southwest USA and visited, picked up a "cold and persistent cough"... check your symptoms against those from your Google search. I have not had the flu nor a cold for thirty years. This is my first experience with Valley Fever and I am at a chronic 85% to 90% normal. The shortness of breath I attributed to coming from 1500 feet elevation back to 6500 feet, but thought it strange this happened so easily... but it is probably my irritated lungs.

Are there other regional illnesses that we Airstreamers should be aware? This Valley Fever is one that is easily confused with a virus. Probably from my walking the dogs every morning in the gravels and bare ground, as well as prodding around looking for shiny stones to take home. This stuff... at least for me, will be taken care of immediately if I get the first "cold symptoms" again.
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Old 03-30-2015, 12:12 PM   #2
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What is the cure?


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Old 03-30-2015, 12:34 PM   #3
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I had it a number of years ago and was NOT properly treated. My Ohio doc "said" she would look up valley fever, but never did and proceeded to treat me with antibiotics...WRONG!

The medical name for valley fever is Coccidioides (kok-sid-e-oy-deez). If you aren't out west when you go to the doc, they won't know what valley fever is.

The proper treatment is anti-fungals. The fungus lives in the dirt out west and if it sets up housekeeping in your lungs it can be very dangerous...even fatal. Please see a doc right away and make sure you are properly treated. My lungs have never been quite the same though it's been 9 years. It also took me a good 6-8 months to recover...largely because I was never properly diagnosed and treated.

I believe the good news is, once you've had it you're immune but I'm not certain.
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Old 03-30-2015, 12:58 PM   #4
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Most people who live in the desert southwest have had "valley fever" at some time in their lives, and they probably didn't know it. Typical treatment is the same as for a cold; i.e., rest, liquids, OTC meds as necessary for elevated fever.

Those with an impaired immune system or who have more severe symptoms may need treatment with prescription antifungal meds; as in rare cases, this infection can be fatal. However, most are only slightly inconvenienced by cold-like symptoms; and they usually retain lifetime immunity from future infections.

You might want to ask the doctor about allergies, too. If there were a couple of days of rain, the desert can bloom really fast. Here in Phoenix, it's warming up; and the pollen count has been at the max for the past few weeks.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:04 PM   #5
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Ntex... search Google. There is a good easy to read coverage on Discover May 2014 issue on this.

Prudencepb is right. Doctors outside the Southwest take it as a mold/mildew congestion. When you read of the process these spores take in your lungs... you think that it would be well known everywhere. But, the symptoms could be from a number of sources.

In my case, I was feeling better. Then regressed. Feeling better. Then regressed. Some races are more prone to serious complications. Whatever it takes tomorrow with my visit to the doctor... give it to me. This is like a woman's "hot flashes" symptoms. Now I have more compassion for my wife's hot flashes.

I would not be surprised if she does not have this as well from our last trip. They are minor. She could have some if not total immunity, but we are watching closely. This stuff should have the symptoms memorized if you visit the Southwest. I will tell you now... even if you have what seems to be a resilient "cold"... get it checked. The cost of the visit is well worth it, no matter.
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:08 PM   #6
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Phoenix knows. I lived in Phoenix as a youngster, with allergies, but this is like stubbing your toe versus a car driving over it. Went to the Tucson, AZ Rock Show for many years in February. Las Vegas on junkets in the 1980's. Never... had the personal introduction.

At first I figured it was something "exotic" from outside the USA in a virus form.

Not exotic at all. Locally spawned and inhaled. This stuff is an eye opener. Just keep it in your thoughts, as I thought I was immune from exposures to about anything an Army Brat traveling the World could be exposed.
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:19 PM   #7
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The Fungus AmongUs

PrudencePB's sister here. Since you've had it and regressed more than once you should be prescribed the antifungals. Be sure the doctor you see knows what the correct medication is and that you don't leave the office without an Rx. Then get the pharmacist to confirm it's an anti-fungal rather than a routinely overprescribed antibiotic. If you really want to freak her out, memorize the name as Karen spelled it phoenetically and tell the doctor what you have.

Paula
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Old 03-30-2015, 01:59 PM   #8
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Western Docs are very familiar with it. Had I known the scientific name when I went to her I probably wouldn't have the scarred lungs I get to live with now. But yeah, knowing the scientific name and being able to pronounce it always freaks them out a little bit. (I always enjoy that!) BAD Prudence!
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Old 03-30-2015, 02:02 PM   #9
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We 'get' this around Austin.. a lot... nagging/lagging, in your lungs irritation... For me, I have never been prescribed the 'anti fungals'... but will as!
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Old 03-30-2015, 02:09 PM   #10
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Same kind of fungal type thing in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys...called Hystoplasmosis.

I recently had pain in my right lung and got my FIRST chest x-ray. It showed a dark, well defined mass in the lower lobe. I, of course, freaked. It was diagnosed as a hystoplasmosis granuloma.....I freaked again, until they asked if I ever spent time on a farm in the valley.....uh, yes, all my life.

They said I probably thought I had the flu as a child but it was a fungal infection and has since calcified and irritates the lung tissue. No biggie and most farmers have one or more. Sounds awful, but is nothing but an inconvenience.
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Old 03-30-2015, 03:29 PM   #11
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"Significant disease develops in less than 5% of those infected"... oh great, the first time I might qualify for the top 5% of anything.

"There is a lack of prospective studies that examine optimal anti-fungal therapy for coccidioidomycosis." ... and I considered athlete's foot as being rare and incurable, as well.

Medications:

- Oral Fluconzole
- Intravenous amphotericin B
- Itraconazole
- Ketoconazole
- Fluconazole for coccidioidal menigitis
- Intrathecal or intraventricula amphotericin B if infection persists after fluconazole treatment
- Itraconazole for cases where infection involves person's bones and joints
- Antifungal medications posaconazole and voriconzaole have been used to treat coccidioidomycosis

Just give me a check list. If one prescription does not work, lets get to the next on the list until we run out. If those fail, I will go to the nearest liquor store and start with anything beginning with A and head towards Z. Might be a first time for Fungal Therapy coverage.

I read that some of the medications are just as unpleasant as the fungal infection. It is the "unpleasant" that bothers me, as this already is unpleasant.

I WILL discuss how they handle this at Kaiser Permanente and how it worked for me. My former neighbor who made it through Valley Fever, the last time I saw him looked so much older than I did at the time. Well, he was ten years older anyways, but who is counting? When going through Nevada... hold your breath.
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Old 03-30-2015, 03:37 PM   #12
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I just had to add a comment about the fungus being in the dirt.

When kids in the 1950's, you ate dirt, not by choice, that is. You played in dirt. You smelled like dirt. You built forts in the dirt. For proper marble games you needed well compacted... dirt. You needed to be hosed off before getting close to the front door step.

(Dirt to a kid, is Soil to a professional.)

BUT, I never had the opportunity to play in the dirt in Nevada. I should have known.
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Old 03-30-2015, 04:08 PM   #13
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Sorry you're sick, but at least you'll have a doc who will listen to you and not just do whatever the hell they want. Getting well and feeling better is the goal.
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Old 03-30-2015, 10:03 PM   #14
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cocci

Coccidioidomycosis is endemic in the southwest, and nearly all denizens are exposed as kids with the disease being self limiting. Allergists actually use reactivity to coccidoidin antigen as a test of immune system function. Older transplants or travelers are usually the folks who become persistently symptomatic, and a course of ketoconazole is usually curative. AFAIK there is no specific test for this disease so a high degree of suspicion is needed.
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