The Valley Fever Institute strives to provide education on Valley Fever symptoms and the importance of seeking diagnosis and treatment to members of our community.
Our goal is to encourage the public’s awareness through community engagement and education, as well as to provide information and resources to patients and their families. Many individuals throughout the Southwestern United States, and even in Kern County, are unaware of Valley Fever or lack an understanding of just how serious it can be. We host an annual Valley Fever Awareness Walk in Bakersfield that provides a sense of community for survivors and hope for those newly diagnosed and a Valley Fever Walk in Taft to bring awareness to Kern County’s region of highest incidence. The Valley Fever Institute also provides information and resources at numerous community organization meetings, service clubs, safety professional meetings, and through booths at health fairs, veteran’s stand-downs, and the Kern County fair.
With cases on the rise, educating medical providers is ever critical to protecting the health of our community. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of symptomatic cases of Valley Fever are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Even after a patient seeks medical attention, it can often take numerous visits and an average of five months to receive a diagnosis. In our efforts, our physicians have hosted Grand Rounds at UCLA, in-person and digital continuing medical education events, Valley Fever educational conferences for local physicians, and have published guidelines for diagnosis and treatment.
The third segment of our education and awareness efforts involve those that are the most at risk of exposure, our treasured Kern County workforce. Industries, where employees work or spend a significant amount of time outside, especially in undisturbed soil, are most at risk of contracting Valley Fever when soil is disturbed or high winds break off spores. It is our job to protect the health and well-being of workers by providing them with education on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and encouraging them to seek medical attention when symptoms persist for longer than ten days. Early diagnosis and treatment can lessen the severity and duration of illness, minimizing the impacts on one’s health and finances. The Valley Fever Institute has launched its Occupational Health Training Program with the goal of providing this education to every at-risk worker in Kern County and, as a byproduct, ensuring that companies are in compliance with recent state legislation
Through our initiatives for the public, providers, and industry, we wish to reduce complications that can arise through misdiagnosis and delayed care.
Chronic Valley Fever
Complications of Valley Fever
Many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms that can appear between 1-3 weeks after exposure, including:
The symptoms of Valley Fever can be similar to those of other common illnesses, so patients may have delays in getting diagnosed and treated. For many people, symptoms will go away without any treatment, after weeks or months. Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.
Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever. Valley Fever can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults ages 60 and older.
Complications of Valley Fever
Healthcare providers rely on your medical and travel history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests to diagnose Valley Fever. The most common way that healthcare providers test for Valley Fever is by taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory to look for Coccidioides antibodies or antigens.
Healthcare providers may do imaging tests such as chest x-rays or CT scans of your lungs to look for Valley Fever. They may also perform a tissue biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the body and examined under a microscope. Laboratories may also see if Coccidioides will grow from body fluids or tissues (this is called a culture).
Any healthcare provider can order a test for Valley Fever.
It depends on the type of test. Results from a blood test will usually be available in a few days. If your healthcare provider sends a sample to a laboratory to be cultured, the results could take a few days to a couple of weeks.