What Is Disseminated
Disseminated coccidioidomycosis is an
airborne illness caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis. When
the infection is in your lungs, it’s known as valley fever. When it spreads
from the lungs to other tissues, it’s known as disseminated coccidioidomycosis.
The condition requires immediate
medical attention. Antifungal agents are the usual treatment. The infection can
lead to a chronic condition if your body isn’t able to fight the fungus.
Disseminated coccidioidomycosis can be fatal.
What Are the Symptoms of
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
around 60 percent of people who come into contact with the fungus don’t have
When the infection is in your lungs,
it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as:
- a cough
- chest pain
- a fever
- night sweats
- joint aches
- a red, spotty rash
- shortness of breath
This type of infection is commonly
known as valley fever.
If your body isn’t able to fight the
infection on its own or you have a compromised immune system,
coccidioidomycosis can develop into a chronic infection. The symptoms resemble
tuberculosis and include:
- a cough
- chest pain
- a fever
- weight loss
- lung nodules
- blood in the sputum
- the development of pneumonia
Disseminated coccidioidomycosis occurs
when the infection spreads to other parts of the body from the lungs. The
symptoms depend on where the infection spreads but can often include:
- ulcers, skin lesions, or nodules that are more
serious than a rash
- lesions in bones, including the skull or spine
- painful and swollen joints, especially in the
knees or ankles
- meningitis, which is the most deadly
Let a doctor know if you have any of
these symptoms and have recently traveled to or live in a high-risk area.
What Causes Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis?
Coccidioidomycosis is an infection
caused by the fungus C. immitis. This fungus is present in the
western deserts of the United States and in Central and South America. In the
United States, it’s usually present in:
- California’s San Joaquin Valley
- southern Arizona
- southern New Mexico
- western Texas
The fungus lives in the soil. The
infection occurs when a person breathes in dust particles containing the
fungus. The fungus doesn’t spread from person-to-person.
Infection rates are highest in the late
summer and early fall because the soil is dry and dust storms occur often. The
fungus is unable to spread during periods of rainfall when the soil is damp.
Who Is at Risk of
Contracting Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis?
Anyone can inhale the fungus and
become infected, but you have a greater risk of infection if you:
- are a young infant, a child, or an older adult
- inhale a lot of dust, such as while in military
training, working on a ranch, or working in construction, agriculture, or
- have diabetes
- are pregnant
- are of African-American, Filipino, Asian, or
- have had an organ transplant
- have AIDS or HIV
How Is Disseminated
Your doctor will first take your
medical history. You should let your doctor know if you’ve recently traveled to
a high-risk area.
Your doctor will then perform one or
Your doctor may order X-ray images of
your lungs to look for an infection or blockage.
Sputum Smear or Culture
Your doctor may use a cotton ball or
swab to take a sample of your sputum. They’ll then test the sample for the
presence of the fungus.
Your doctor might take a sample of
your blood to see if your body made antibodies against the fungus.
Your doctor may take a sample of your
tissue or affected areas. This confirms if the fungus is in other parts of your
What Are the Treatments for
It can take six months to a year to
fully recover from the infection.
Rest and fluids give your body time to
fight the infection, and you’ll usually fully recover. If the infection gets
worse or spreads to other parts of your body, your doctor will prescribe antifungal
agents for you, such as amphotericin B and fluconazole.
The infection can return after
treatment if your immune system is weak. If this happens, your doctor will
monitor you and give you additional treatment until the infection is gone.
What Are the Complications
Associated with Disseminated Coccidioidomycosis?
If this infection isn’t treated, the
complications from it can include:
- severe pneumonia
- ruptured lung nodules
- other complications ranging from skin lesions to
heart problems depending on where the infection has spread
Complications from disseminated
coccidioidomycosis can be severe, and they can even be fatal. It’s essential to
seek treatment as soon as possible if you believe you might have this
How Can I Prevent
To avoid coming into contact with the
fungus, you should take these precautions around dust in high-risk areas:
- Make sure to stay out of dust storms.
- If you have to go out on a windy,
dusty day, wear a mask.
- Wet soil before digging or working
- Close doors and windows to keep the
dust from getting in.
As the high-risk areas develop, the
infection rate will decrease. This is due to the development of paved roads and
landscaping that will reduce the spread of the fungus.