What happens when Valley fever and COVID-19 collide?

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - 9:30am
Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - 9:33am

Valley fever coccidioides fungus
Pooja Gandhi/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Medical illustration of coccidioides, the fungus that causes Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis).

The number of Valley fever cases is on the rise — but what happens when Valley fever and COVID-19 collide? 

Dr. Neil Ampel is a consultant at the Mayo Clinic. He co-authored a paper with a colleague after looking at more than 3,300 patients with Valley fever and nearly 6,000 with COVID-19. Of that, 60 had both at roughly the same time. Seven patients saw their Valley fever symptoms worsen.

"But when we look more closely, the only factor we found was patients getting the corticosteroid dexamethasone which is an immunosuppressant that's commonly used in people with severe COVID," Ampel said.

Ampel says they saw nodules in their lungs increase in size and rising antibody titers. Interestingly, Valley fever did not make COVID-19 worse for patients. 

Valley fever is a fungus and the spores live in the soil. When that soil is disturbed either because of wind or construction, they get into the air. According to the CDC, Valley fever is "highly endemic areas such as the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas of Arizona."

→ Valley fever and COVID-19 share similar symptoms

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