WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-01) and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20), co-chairmen of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, led a roundtable discussion with former NFL superstar Rob Gronkowski and representatives from Anivive Lifesciences at the U.S. Capitol to raise awareness about the debilitating impacts of Valley Fever on both humans and pets as well as the urgency to develop a cure to eradicate the disease for good.
The roundtable featured testimony from Gronkowski, who is partnering with Anivive to help pets inflicted with the disease get access to care, and Valley Fever experts working on preventative treatments. Rob Purdie, a patient diagnosed with Valley Fever in 2012, also discussed his experience battling the disease and his advocacy for a future vaccine. Anivive recently submitted a canine Valley Fever vaccine application that is currently under review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and if approved, has the potential to be the first vaccine for a systemic fungal infection in any species with the hope that it will lead to a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine for humans.
“It’s stunning to think that just 10 years ago, the American public knew little about Valley Fever and the devastating effects this disease can inflict upon our communities, particularly in Arizona. What once was misdiagnosed as cancer can now be correctly identified and treated as Valley Fever,” said Congressman Schweikert.“Now more than ever, the Valley Fever Task Force remains laser-focused on bringing awareness and streamlining resources to deliver a cure that provides much-needed relief to families, friends, and beloved pets who have suffered from this terrible disease for far too long.”
“Great progress continues to be made toward developing better treatments and finding a cure for Valley Fever, including a vaccine for dogs that’s projected to be released next year,” said Speaker McCarthy. “But this is only the beginning. In Congress, Task Force members and I will continue supporting efforts toward development of a human vaccine. I am grateful to Congressman and Co-Chairman David Schweikert for his steadfast leadership on this issue over the years, the members of this Task Force, and all of the community advocates and researchers who continue to work toward our shared goals. We look forward to collaborating with stakeholders and colleagues across the aisle to find a cure once and for all.”
“Ralphie and I enjoyed our time in D.C. meeting with members of Congress and other government officials,” said Rob Gronkowski. “The crazy amount of support that they are showing Anivive’s preventive treatment for Valley Fever is very encouraging to all pet owners! I look forward to continue utilizing my resources in championing the fight against Valley Fever.”
“Valley Fever has an enormous impact on the Central Valley, leaving thousands of people sick every single year. I’m proud to be a member of the Valley Fever Task Force to raise awareness and work toward solutions,” said Congressman David Valadao (CA-22). “Today our task force hosted a round table with Valley Fever experts from across the country to hear about current challenges and how we can be helpful at the federal level. I look forward to continuing my work with Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chairs Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Representative David Schweikert to help find treatments for this disease and keep Central Valley families safe and healthy.”
“We commend Speaker McCarthy and Congressman Schweikert for their Leadership on the Valley Fever Task Force,” said Dylan Balsz, CEO, Anivive Lifesciences, Inc. “The development of a pet vaccine not only accelerates one for humans, but is a first step towards a pan-fungal vaccine that can benefit all Americans.”
“I appreciate the efforts of Speaker McCarthy and Congressman Schweikert and their dedication to reestablishing the Valley Fever Task Force for the 118th Congress. It’s great to see this Task Force continue to engage in bringing critical federal resources to bear to address the effects of Valley Fever on states like California and Arizona as well as the growing impact this disease is having on the country,” said Rob Purdie, Patient, Valley Fever Institute. “For us as patients, seeing Members of Congress that care gives us hope and keeps us doing what we need to do. It’s an already difficult disease to deal with. It impacts not just the patient, but the entire family and entire communities. It’s great to have additional people and resources getting onboard, including new Members of Congress joining the Task Force, as well as Rob Gronkowski engaged on this issue. He has a unique opportunity to do that for people, as well as the impact his advocacy has for pets.”
“Congressional attention on infectious diseases and conditions like Valley Fever is so critical. Antimicrobial treatments for these conditions face significant market challenges, which means patients are left to suffer without the drugs they do urgently need,” said Candace DeMatteis, Policy Director, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. “This is why we are so thankful for the work of all those who came to the Hill today to drive progress on the PASTEUR Act. The urgency for new, effective antibiotics and antimicrobials impacts everyone – those in regions impacted by Valley Fever as well as the patient waiting for a joint or organ replacement or even a routine cesarean section. It is our hope this bill moves forward this Congress so we can give patients assurance that their doctors will have the tools increasingly needed to treat infections.”
- Valley Fever is a fungal infection endemic to the southwestern United States that is contracted by breathing in fungal spores, often when dry soil is disturbed.
- Symptoms of Valley Fever can include a cough, fever, muscle and joint pain, and other symptoms that mimic other common respiratory infections and illnesses, which can lead to a misdiagnosis and underreported figures to the CDC. There were just over 20,000 reported cases in 2021 — the most since 2011 — signaling that Valley Fever is on the rise.
- While many cases of Valley Fever are mild, if left untreated, some cases can develop into severe fungal infections that spread from the lungs to other parts of the body and can be fatal.
- Arizona alone accounts for about 65% of all reported Valley Fever cases in the United States. There is currently no cure, and doctors often recommend patients take antifungal medications for life.
- In 2013, Rep. Schweikert and Speaker McCarthy co-founded the Valley Fever Task Force, with the goal being to share information with stakeholders in the medical and scientific fields to foster new advancements in prevention and treatment as well as to work with community organizations to help educate individuals on the disease.
- In the 117th Congress, Rep. Schweikert and Speaker McCarthy introduced the Finding Orphan-disease Remedies with Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act, bipartisan legislation to support research initiatives to treat Valley Fever.