Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

What You Should Know About Valley Fever


Am Fam Physician. 2020 Feb 15;101(4):online.

  Related article: Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever) in Primary Care

What is valley fever?

Valley fever (also called coccidioidomycosis, or cocci [COX-ee] for short) is an infection caused by mold that grows in outdoor dirt. It is most common in the southwest United States, especially in parts of Arizona and southern California (see map). You can’t get it if you don’t live in those areas and haven’t visited there, even if you’ve been around people from there.

Figure 1

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fungal diseases: sources of valley fever (coccidioidomycosis). January 2, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2019.

Figure 1

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fungal diseases: sources of valley fever (coccidioidomycosis). January 2, 2019. Accessed January 20, 2019.

How do you get it?

Sometimes dirt gets blown by the wind and the mold flies into the air. People then breathe in the mold, and some get sick with a lung infection. But many people don’t get sick at all. Valley fever can’t be spread from person to person, or from animals to people.

How can I keep from catching it?

Valley fever is hard to prevent because the mold that causes it is in the air. Some doctors suggest that people avoid dusty outdoor areas in parts of the country where it’s common.

How is it treated?

Most people who get sick will get better on their own with no treatment. Your doctor will want you to have blood tests and x-rays every few months to be sure you are getting better. Pregnant women and people with certain medical problems might need to take medicine to kill the mold. Antibiotics won’t help because they don’t kill mold.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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