June 21, 2018

Harris Sponsors Legislation to Combat Valley Fever

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris introduced a bill, the Combat Valley Fever Act, to spread awareness and help determine the best methods to combat Valley Fever, a fungal lung infection that can be fatal. Valley Fever results from fungus that’s trapped in the soil, and when the earth is tilled during agricultural activity it releases organisms that enter peoples’ lungs. It often presents as a cold or the flu and can be misdiagnosed. Valley Fever occurs most often in areas with dry, desert soil like California’s San Joaquin Valley – and when wind picks up their spores they can be blown for hundreds of miles. Those affected most by Valley Fever include immunosuppressed patients, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and minority populations of African, Filipino, and Native American descent.

This legislation would direct the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work in coordination with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to fuel research, examine the number of incidents that occur, and encourage state and local health officials to report cases of Valley Fever through the proper channels.

“We need more resources to combat this disease, raise awareness, and determine the root causes and how best to treat it,” said Sen. Harris. “Through the coordination of the USDA, CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and respective state and local public health agencies, we can work to help those in rural communities who face the greatest risk.”

It’s vital that the protocols and guidelines developed by the USDA, NIH, and CDC and other appropriate professional health care organizations, be made available to the agriculture community, physicians and other health care providers so that they are able to access the most recent scientific and medical information on Valley Fever etiology, transmission, diagnosis, surveillance, and treatment. This bill would make these protocols and guidelines available to state and local health officials, as well as state farm bureaus and individual farmers and agriculture firms that request it, and provide grant monies to communities that qualify. 
“Coccidioidomycosis or ‘Valley Fever’ as its commonly called, is a terrible disease that afflicts mainly farmers and farm hands across the western United States. As our agricultural growth increases to feed a hungry nation and world, this terrible disease increases in frequency and severity as well. Federal and state governments need to align with health care and the pharmaceutical industry to insure all are working to limit the impact of this disease.” -  Kevin D. Hamilton, CEO,
Central California Asthma Collaborative 

The Valley Fever Americas Foundation is very excited to see legislation at the national level to address Valley Fever. As numbers have increased annually and the effects of this disease have expanded, and until we have a cure, the need for awareness has become even more important. Awareness starts with an accurate count of the amount of people affected by this disease. As someone who has personally been fighting this disease for the past 6 years I can say that often we feel our numbers aren’t counted accurately, especially if we are diagnosed in a state that does not count/track cases of Valley Fever.” - Rob Purdie, Valley Fever Americas Foundation 

Text of the bill can be found here