The early manifestations of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) are similar to those of other causes of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). Without specific etiologic testing, the true frequency of valley fever may be underestimated by public health statistics. Therefore, we conducted a prospective observational study of adults with recent onset of a lower respiratory tract syndrome. Valley fever was serologically confirmed in 16 (29%) of 55 persons (95% confidence interval 16%-44%). Antimicrobial medications were used in 81% of persons with valley fever. Symptomatic differences at the time of enrollment had insufficient predictive value for valley fever to guide clinicians without specific laboratory tests. Thus, valley fever is a common cause of CAP after exposure in a disease-endemic region. If CAP develops in persons who travel or reside in Coccidioides-endemic regions, diagnostic evaluation should routinely include laboratory evaluation for this organism.