Hanging out in the desert is great, especially if you’re from somewhere with winter snow and sleet. Instead of taking 10 minutes just to get dressed to go to the store, you can walk outside in shorts and short sleeved shirt. Great!

There’s  got to be a payback, since nothing good in this world comes without some consequences. Well, one might be Valley fever

Valley Fever, or cocccidioidomycosis, is a fungal infection which at times can cause some serious problems. It is common in Central California (hence the name Valley Fever) and the southwest desert areas. It is caused by inhaling fungal spores. These spores in turn can cause pneumonia.

Those who are pregnant, have diabetes, HIV or have a weakened immune system are at especially high risk of contracting the disease and suffering more serious consequences. For those without any of these conditions, many times the infection is asymptomatic and causes no problems.

However, some people develop a cough, rash, joint pains and weakness. Sometimes the disease can last for years, causing rheumatism, weakness and general malaise. Uncommonly, Valley Fever can spread to the skin, bones, joints, brain and meninges, which of course is very serious.

Curiously, the disease is not at all contagious, so it can’t be transferred from one individual to another. But if you spend even just a few hours in an area where the fungus is common, you can become infected. The spores hang out in the soil, so activities such as mountain or dirt biking, hiking and gardening carry the greatest risk of becoming infected.

If you happen to have traveled recently from such an area and have a chronic cough, weakness, rash or joint pain, consider scheduling a visit with your doctor to find out whether you have contracted this disease.