National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Valley Fever


United States map illustrating estimated areas with valley fever in the U.S.

Estimated Areas with Valley Fever in the United States (Centers for Disease Control).

Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is an illness caused by fungal spores found in the soil in the southwestern United States and south-central Washington. Valley fever is contracted by breathing in spores from soil or airborne dust particles. Valley fever is typically not contagious (cannot spread person-to-person).

Many people exposed to Valley fever never have symptoms. Others may develop symptoms one to three weeks following exposure to contaminated soil or dust.

Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash on upper body or legs
  • Headache
  • Night sweats

Symptoms usually last for a few weeks to a few months, while severe cases may extend beyond this. Individuals who develop symptoms consistent with Valley fever and seek medical care may be asked by their healthcare providers to complete a medical and travel history, to provide information about their symptoms, and to undergo physical examinations and laboratory tests to accurately diagnose Valley fever. In some cases, Valley fever can cause severe illness. This is more common in individuals with certain risk factors. (Source: CDC – Valley Fever).

Wildland fire tasks associated with increased risk for exposure:

  • Being in close proximity to helicopter operations due to rotor wash.
  • Digging or prepping fireline, mopping up (suppression efforts), hiking or traveling in areas with loose soil (dozer line, handline).
  • Working around and operating heavy equipment.
  • Working in camps with high traffic and minimal dust control

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can you minimize your exposure to soil and dust?
    1. Consider dust control mop-up kits and other water-handling tools to reduce dust and soil from becoming airborne.
    2. Mop up to secure your area. Evaluate your section and determine what is necessary and what is unnecessary exposure to secure the fireline.
  2. If you suspect Valley fever and seek medical care, what information would you share with the provider?
Firefighter Health & Safety
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
May 2023

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