Health Information Management

Valley fever

JustCoding News: Outpatient, June 30, 2010

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Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by coccidioides organisms, which are commonly found in soil in certain areas and can be breathed into the lungs when the soil is disrupted.

Mild cases of valley fever typically resolve on their own. For more severe cases, physicians prescribe antifungal medications to treat the underlying infection. Only 40% of people with valley fever develop symptoms.

Valley fever is also called desert fever, Posadas disease, San Joaquin fever, San Joaquin Valley disease, and San Joaquin Valley fever.

Disseminated coccidioidomycosis is the most serious form of valley fever. It occurs when the infection spreads beyond the lungs to other parts of the body (e.g., skin, bones, liver, brain, and heart, as well as membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord).

Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of mild valley fever, which typically develop one to three weeks after exposure, include:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Joint aches
  • Coughing

An initial infection that doesn’t completely resolve may progress to a chronic form of pneumonia. This complication is most common in people with diabetes or weakened immune systems. Signs and symptoms of a more serious infection include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Blood-tinged sputum
  • Nodules in the lungs

Most cases of valley fever resolve without treatment. For more severe cases, physicians may prescribe antifungal medication.

There are currently no vaccines to prevent valley fever.

Documentation and coding
Reference under Fever, valley in the Alphabetic index.

ICD-9-CM coding

  • Primary coccidioidomycosis (pulmonary): code 114.0

ICD-10-CM coding

  • Acute pulmonary coccidioidomycosis: ICD-10-CM code B38.0

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