Updated: Feb 5
Valley Fever is traveling from the west coast and maybe settle in Texas
Fungal illness mimics COVID symptoms... Named after the San Joaquin Valley in California, Valley fever is an infection caused by breathing in the spores of a fungus called Coccidioides, which originates in the soil.— severe cases could lead to respiratory distress or meningitis.
For most people who suffer from fever, cough, and fatigue, the likely culprits are cold, flu, or COVID-19. But for those living in the southwestern U.S., the symptoms could point to Valley fever — and some scientists predict that this illness eventually could spread to other regions.
According to the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, symptoms typically occur within three weeks of exposure.
The CDC says symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Muscle aches or joint pain
Rash on the upper body or legs.
Southern Arizona and Southern California have the highest volume of cases, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — but the disease is also prevalent in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and parts of Washington State.
As of 2019, Valley fever cases topped 20,000 nationwide, the CDC reported. According to the California Department for Public Health, reported cases tripled in that state between 2014 and 2018.
Dr. George Thompson, a professor at UC Davis Health and co-director of the Center for Valley fever in Sacramento, told Fox News Digital about the ramp-up in cases.
"We have seen a gradual increase in cases over the last five years, and a greater number of patients are coming into our clinic for diagnosis and treatment," he said.
While geographic location heightens the overall risk of contracting Valley fever, the CDC notes that certain groups are more vulnerable.
These include people 60 years of age and older; those who have weakened immune systems as a result of certain diseases or medical conditions; pregnant women; people with diabetes; and people who are Black or Filipino.
However, he said he does see some severe cases where patients experience respiratory illness. Thompson estimated that for 1%-3% of people, the infection will leave the lungs and travel to other parts of the body — which can lead to meningitis.