Symptoms of Valley Fever
This page formed the basis for a video in the Valley Fever Survivor Educational Video Series on our YouTube Channel:
Not every symptom below will necessarily occur in every Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) infection. This is true for both humans and animals. Every case can be different. Some patients experience many symptoms, some notice no symptoms at all (even if, for example, someone is not aware of a nodule growing in his or her lung), and some might have all of these symptoms.
*This can be a sign of lesions in the eye, but also a side effect of Vfend (voriconazole), a medication use to treat Valley Fever.
**These could be a sign of meningitis from Valley Fever and may therefore require aggressive antifungal therapy. Valley Fever is often misdiagnosed as cancer, tuberculosis, or bacterial pneumonia. It can disseminate (spread) throughout the body. The fact that the symptoms of Valley Fever vary so greatly is a part of the reason misdiagnosis is so common. In addition, the lack of training and lack of accurate information available to doctors is a contributing factor in the frequent misdiagnoses of this devastating illness.
The disease can cause hydrocephalus (harmful pressure from spinal fluid on the brain), verrucose ulcers (wartlike outgrowths on the surface of organs and skin), arthralgias (joint pains), myalgias (muscle pains), otomycosis (fungal infection of the external ear canal), hypercalcemia (extra calcium in the blood that can be fatal) and other terrible conditions.
The simplest, fastest description of Valley Fever is that the disease can create lesions or inflammation in nearly any part of the body. The fact that one can consider the disease in such simple terms should never be taken to mean anyone should ignore it's deadly, painful, or debilitating consequences.
The following problems caused by lesions are only the tip of the iceberg: Lytic lesions involve rupture of cell membranes, keratotic ulcers are scaly and wartlike, and the disease can create lesions on other internal organs or manifest in visible, hideous skin conditions.
Depending on where Valley Fever causes inflammation within the body, a patient may experience arthritis, conjunctivitis, endocarditis, meningitis, myocarditis, osteomyelitis, pleuritis, tenosynovitis, vasculitis or a variety of other painful or life-threatening conditions. Meningitis, the swelling of the brain's lining, is universally regarded as the most deadly and dangerous form of Valley Fever. It occurs frequently in patients who have the disease spread from their lungs.
Valley Fever usually starts in the lungs and can disseminate to virtually any part of the body such as:
Valley Fever in Animals
The above symptoms also apply to Valley Fever in dogs, cats, and other animals. Since animals can't express that they have these problems as clearly as humans can, pet owners should watch their animals for any of these symptoms.
The most prevalent signs of veterinary Valley Fever are respiratory distress, coughing, fever, malaise, loss of appetite, lameness, and unexplained personality changes. These could be particularly significant if the animal was exposed to soil in an endemic area.
Valley Fever disseminates very often in infected dogs. Many more cats are being diagnosed now than in the past. All mammals are subject to contracting Valley Fever. However, to date, there have not been any reported cases of Valley Fever in birds.
If your pet shows some of these symptoms and lives in or has visited an endemic area, we recommend you contact your veterinarian and suggest the possibility of a coccidioidomycosis infection. This could save your pet's life.
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