David Losa, Bakersfield, 68
After living in Bakersfield for 17 years and not catching valley fever, I thought I might be immune. Being aware that the disease was endemic in my hometown, I read everything about it that I could get my hands on.
In February 2011, I went to Hawaii for two weeks to relieve my sister in caring for our aging mother. The week before my departure, I felt like I was coming down with the flu. The symptoms were pretty mild so I went on the trip anyway, thinking I would feel better when I got there.
I started coughing when I arrived, and started taking over-the-counter medications. Then I started to have a low-grade fever, typically around noon. I took the medications for more than a week, but none helped.
Thinking of everything I had read about valley fever, I suspected I had it and told my other sister. As a military retiree, she offered to take me to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. I told her my stay in Hawaii was almost up. Since valley fever was unknown in Hawaii, if in fact I had it, I would be back home in Bakersfield by the time the doctors figured it out and determined the proper treatment. So I decided to wait until I was back home.
On the first opportunity I had, I went to Sendas Northwest Urgent Care in Bakersfield. After a few diagnostic tests, I was told I either had tuberculosis or valley fever. I was given more tests, which confirmed I had valley fever, and I was referred to a pulmonologist who conducted his own test to confirm the earlier diagnosis. I was placed on a fluconazole regimen for several months, and attended monthly follow- up appointments.
I am fully recovered now, except that I get tired more easily than before my illness. I was lucky I caught the nonaggressive type of the disease.
Reporting on Health Collaborative asked readers to share their experiences with valley fever. Here are their stories, in their own words, as told to the Collaborative's Community Engagement Editor, Kellie Schmitt. Their accounts capture the pain and anguish suffered by local families as doctors struggled to find the right treatment and jobs and lives were lost to the disease. Misdiagnosis was a frequent problem, allowing time for the disease to "tunnel" its way into lungs and other organs, as one survivor put it. And, even when the correct treatment was administered, patients often suffered terrible side effects. These first-person stories are a poignant reminder of the need for better treatment protocols and improved diagnosis. They also highlight the costs to families, employers and the government of underinvestment in research to develop a vaccine. Do you have a valley fever story to share? Write firstname.lastname@example.org or call (661) 748-3142 to leave us a voice message.