Valley Fever Task Force
In 2013, Congressman David Schweikert and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy teamed up to co-found the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, bringing much needed awareness to the disease of coccidioidomycosis. The disease, more commonly known as Valley Fever, is prominent in Maricopa county as well as the rest of Arizona and southern California.The goal of the Valley Fever Task Force is to share information with stakeholders in the medical and scientific fields to foster new advancements in prevention and treatment as well as work with community organizations to help educate individuals on the disease. As Congressman Schweikert stated, "This task force is a much needed step toward raising awareness for this terrible disease and someday soon finding a cure. Valley Fever has silently affected entire communities in the southwest including our family, friends, and even beloved pets. I am hopeful that this working group will bring awareness, reduce the risk of misdiagnoses, and bring about a cure within the decade.”
In the 113th Congress, Congressman Schweikert successfully led the effort to have coccidioides spp., the pathogens that cause Valley Fever, listed as qualifying pathogens under the GAIN Act of 2011. This effort granted Valley Fever the title of “orphan disease” with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning any treatments or future cures will be given priority and fast tracked through the often arduous FDA drug approval process.
What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever is caused by the fungal spore coccidioides spp. endemic to arid and semi-arid geographical areas. Because these spores are carried by soil, any disruption to the ground creates a heightened risk of infection. While some individuals breathe in the spore with no repercussions, others fall ill from Valley Fever. Those affected most by Valley Fever are immunosuppressed patients; elderly individuals; pregnant females; and minority populations of African, Filipino, and Native American descent. Of the more than 150,000 individuals infected annually, roughly 50,000 warrant medical attention. Of those, nearly 600 cases have the infection spread from their lungs to other parts of their body. Ultimately, about 160 cases result in death. Reported cases of Valley Fever in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico have skyrocketed in recent years; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that reported cases of Valley Fever have risen nine-fold since 1998. Arizona alone accounts for about 65% of all reported cases that occur in the United States.
Today, patients diagnosed with Valley Fever are prescribed an antifungal therapy that has a 30%-60% failure rate. The current recommendation of the Infectious Disease Society of America is to continue treatment for life. There is no cure.
Valley Fever severely affects many who work outdoors, farmers, and those in the construction industry. Every branch of the United States’ military has bases in the endemic regions, putting our military men and women at risk.
More on Valley Fever
Doctors: More research needed to rid Arizona, California of rampant valley fever | Ken Alltucker
Two out of every three cases of valley fever originate in Arizona, but experts worry that doctors and public know too little about the incurable fungal disease that sickens tens of thousands of people in this state every year.