Valley fever goes by many names. Some people refer to the infection as cocci, desert rheumatism, California fever or San Joaquin fever. This condition is caused by a fungus that lives in soil throughout Kern County and other parts of the world. When dormant soil with Coccidioides fungus growing beneath it is upturned, microscopic spores are released into the air. Inhaling these spores is what causes valley fever and it is extremely rare to contract the infection any other way.