Since it is important to understand many aspects of Valley Fever right away, our online glossary includes some of the most important words and the words that are frequent search terms by visitors to our web site. These terms are also included in the book:
Asymptomatic: Showing no signs of a disease. Valley Fever was believed to be asymptomatic in 60% of infections, but recent estimates suggest only half of these infections will not have symptoms. The disease is also known to activate years later even in people who did not show symptoms earlier.
Bronchoscopy: A medical procedure where a scope is put through the nose or mouth, down the throat, and into the lung to examine the lung and help diagnose various lung diseases. When using a bronchoscopy for Valley Fever testing and diagnosis, a fluid sample may be taken from the lung to be cultured.
Costochondritis: Inflammation of the cartilage connecting ribs to the sternum, resulting in chest pain. This has been considered similar to pains caused by cocci in medical journals, and patients informed us their costochondritis was diagnosed as a part of their Valley Fever.
Coccidioidomycosis: The medical name for the disease commonly called Valley Fever. This is a fungal infection caused by inhaling C. immitis or C. posadasii spores. It can frequently be characterized by flu-like symptoms, rashes, and joint pains. It can also cause many other destructive, painful, and lethal symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose without specific testing. Coccidioides can spread from its primary infection in the lungs to affect any part of the body. Coccidioidomycosis is the scientific name for San Joaquin Valley Fever and some of its nicknames are cocci, desert fever, desert rheumatism, Arizona Flu, California’s Disease, Posadas’ Disease, etc.
Dissemination: The spread of Valley Fever from its site of infection in the lung to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Valley Fever can disseminate to nearly any organ or body part.
Endemic: Related to a specific geographical area, particularly in relation to disease. A disease that is constantly present in a given area is an endemic disease. An endemic area or region is a place where a specific disease causing organism can be found. An endemic area to Coccidioides spp. is a place where these fungi grow. See: endemic disease and endemic region.
Meningitis: Inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, the meninges. Although some forms of meningitis are contagious, meningitis from coccidioidomycosis is not. It is, however, considered the worst and most lethal form of Coccidioides infection.
Osteomyelitis: An inflammation of the bone by organisms causing a buildup of pus. It can spread from one bone to another or remain localized and may ultimately require limbs to be amputated due to the damage. Osteomyelitis is one of the most devastating conditions that can be caused by coccidioidomycosis.
Titer: A titer is a test to find how much dilution is required for a patient’s blood serum not to show any Valley Fever antibodies. When a blood sample is taken, the serum (the clear part of the blood with white and red blood cells taken out) is mixed with a saline solution and then tested. If the VF test is positive (shows that cocci antibodies are still there) it is diluted by half again. This happens again and again until the cocci test is negative, meaning the serum is so diluted that no antibodies can be found. A titer that is written as “1:8” is read as “one to eight.” To say someone has a titer of 1:8 means the mixture could be considered to be one part serum and eight parts solution before the test could become negative. A titer is considered lower when it is less diluted (1:4 is lower than 1:8) and higher when it uses more solution (1:128 is higher than 1:32). Medical sources routinely consider titers of 1:8 and above to be serious. Dissemination is especially common above 1:16. Patients with high titers and dissemination are usually treated with antifungal medication. A low titer can mean the immune system isn’t reacting strongly (either due to immune problems or the VF attack wasn’t as severe as it could have been) and a high titer can mean the immune system was reacting very strongly (indicating that the VF infection was severe or the immune system just produced many Coccidioides antibodies). Regardless of one’s immune health, these antibodies are actually useless to help the body fight the disease. They are helpful in diagnosis because the antibodies are easier to spot in the blood than the fungus itself. Some people have no titers detectable even while the disease is at its worst (and even when they do not have a compromised immune system) and others may show high titers while they outwardly appear to be healthy. Even with that consideration, the correlation of a high titer with severe Valley Fever in humans is common and backed up by decades of medical research. The correlation is not very strong in dogs’ titer tests.
Valley Fever: The more common term for “San Joaquin Valley Fever” and coccidioidomycosis. See coccidioidomycosis.
There is a great deal of additional information in our book Valley Fever Epidemic. Both the first edition of Valley Fever Epidemic and The Official Valley Fever Survivor Medical Glossary have a glossary with over 465 words clearly defined to help you understand your medical records and your road to recovery. Learn more about The Official Valley Fever Survivor Medical Glossary and purchase it here.
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