IDSA — Physicians Overlooking Valley Fever in Many Patients

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Endemic in desert regions in southwest U.S. and some areas in Central and South America
Endemic in desert regions in southwest U.S. and some areas in Central and South America

HealthDay News — Clinicians should suspect coccidioidomycosis, also known as San Joaquin Valley fever, in patients with pneumonia or ongoing flu-like symptoms who live in or have visited the west or southwest United States, especially Arizona and central California, according to updated guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) published online July 27 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Each year, about 150,000 people get the often-overlooked infection, and about 160 die from it, the IDSA says. "Valley fever is underdiagnosed in part because past guidelines were directed to the specialists, whereas most of these patients initially see their primary care physicians, many of whom aren't aware just how common this infection is," guidelines lead author John Galgiani, MD, of the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Valley Fever Center for Excellence in Tucson, said in an IDSA news release.

Primary care providers can handle mild and moderate cases of valley fever once diagnosed, but patients with severe infection should be referred to infectious diseases specialists, Galgiani said. The updated guidelines might help curb unneeded tests and treatments, including antibiotics, he added.

About one-third of cases of pneumonia in Arizona are caused by valley fever, Galgiani noted. "Doctors need to ask patients with pneumonia about their travel history and if they've recently traveled to endemic areas, and need to consider valley fever," he said.

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