WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Representative David Schweikert (AZ-01) and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20), co-chairmen of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, and Representatives David Valadao (CA-22), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06), and Greg Stanton (AZ-04) reintroduced the Finding Orphan-disease Remedies with Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that supports research initiatives to detect, treat, and combat Valley Fever, a disease caused by a fungus commonly found in desert soils that can infect the lungs of humans and canines.
Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“I’m pleased to reintroduce the FORWARD Act this Congress as our Valley Fever Task Force makes significant progress in improving care, treatment, and research into this terrible disease that has devastated so many lives in our communities,” said Rep. Schweikert. “As we’ve seen Valley Fever cases rise across the western United States over the last decade, it’s critical that we continue to prioritize the delivery of medical breakthroughs that will help treat our family members and their beloved pets. This bipartisan legislation helps to combat Valley Fever by providing resources to further close the scientific gap in understanding this disease, support research, and accelerate vaccine development that will hopefully eradicate it once and for all.”
“Arizonans know the dire impacts of Valley fever all too well, and without action, this disease will pose deadly health risks to a growing number of Americans with few tools to treat it,” said Senator Kelly. “We’re working to invest in the treatments and public health strategies needed to protect the health of Arizona families.”
“Funding research and vaccine development to combat Valley fever protects Arizona families and pets in the short-term while strengthening our public health response against future infectious diseases in the long-term,” said Senator Sinema. “I’m proud to be working with researchers, entrepreneurs, and Valley fever experts at the University of Arizona on future health care solutions.”
“Valley Fever has a huge impact on our neighbors and communities in the Central Valley, and we must prioritize the development of new treatments and vaccines to combat the spread of this disease and save lives,” said Rep. Valadao. “The FORWARD Act is an important step towards finding a cure for Valley Fever, and I’m proud to support it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Valley Fever Taskforce to move this critical legislation forward.”
“Valley Fever has impacted many in California, especially in rural areas,” said Rep. LaMalfa. “I’m pleased to join my colleagues on this effort to advance research to better detect, treat, and ultimately eradicate Valley Fever.”
“No family wants to learn their loved one has been infected with Valley Fever, and that there is no known cure—but it’s a reality that thousands of Arizonans face every single year,” said Rep. Stanton. “Our bipartisan FORWARD Act will make it a federal priority to develop treatments and vaccines for this devastating disease.”
“The FORWARD Act is an important step towards addressing the problems posed by endemic and other fungi, especially, Coccidioides, the cause of Valley fever,” said Dr. John Galgiani, Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “A vaccine discovered at the University of Arizona is now in development by Anivive Lifesciences to prevent Valley fever in dogs, and there is every reason to think it would also protect humans. The FORWARD Act will be critical to developing this vaccine to protect people from Valley fever.”
The FORWARD Act is designed to one day eliminate Valley Fever by:
- Authorizing $500,000,000 to support public-private partnerships to prevent and slow the spread of Valley fever infections.
- Streamlining the process to approve new vaccines and treatments for Valley fever.
- Establishing a working group at the Department of Health and Human Services to advise on strategies that confront gaps in science that can help detect, treat, and eradicate Valley fever.
- 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.
- 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.
- In September, Rep. Schweikert and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) led a roundtable discussion with former NFL superstar Rob Gronkowski and Anivive Lifesciences at the U.S. Capitol to talk about the devastating effects of Valley Fever and receive an update on the status of preventative treatments.
- In the 117th Congress, Rep. Schweikert and former Speaker McCarthy introduced the FORWARD Act, bipartisan legislation to support research initiatives to treat Valley Fever.
- In 2013, Rep. Schweikert and former 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.
The full text of the bill can be found here.Back to News