Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal respiratory infection of varying degrees of severity: without symptoms, acute, chronic, severe, or fatal.
The habitat of the causal fungus Coccidioides immitis is alkaline soil of the Lower Sonoran Life Zone in North, Central, and South America. Approximately 60% of patients with primary infections are asymptomatic, 40% have mild to acute pulmonary disease and approximately 0.5% develop serious disease. About 25% of the patients with disseminated disease have meningitis.
During the early 1990s, the incidence of coccidioidomycosis in California increased dramatically. Even though most infections are subclinical or self-limited, the outbreak is estimated to have cost more than $66 million in direct medical expenses and time lost from work in Kern County, California, alone. In addition to the financial loss, this pathogen causes serious and life-threatening disseminated infections, especially among the immunosuppressed, including AIDS patients.