Valley Fever Task Force
Congressman Schweikert and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy set up a Valley Fever Task Force to bring much needed awareness to the disease of Valley Fever, which is prominent in Maricopa county as well as the rest of Arizona and southern California.
The Task Force’s goal 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. Congressman David Schweikert who issued this statement: "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.”
Last 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 FDA, meaning any treatments or future cures will be given priority and fasted tracked through the often arduous FDA approval process.
What is Valley Fever?
Coccidioides spp. comes from the desert earth and causes the disease known as Valley Fever. While some individuals breathe in the spore with no repercussions, others fall ill from Valley Fever. Those most affected most by Valley Fever are immunosuppressed patients, the elderly, minority populations of African, Filipino, and Native American descent, and pregnant females. Of the more than 150,000 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 160 cases result in death. In recent years cases of Valley Fever in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico have skyrocketed- CDC statistics show that reported cases of Valley Fever have risen nine-fold since 1998.
Today, patient 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.