U.S. Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and David Schweikert (R-AZ), co-chairs of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, joined three other task force members this week to introduce legislation seeking to advance research and treatment of the fungal disease.
There are currently more cases of Valley Fever in Arizona than anywhere else in the world — nearly 7,000 cases were reported just last year. Caused by fungal spores in the soil of the American southwest, the disease can cause flu-like issues, but also impact the bones, skin, and eyes as well as the brain.
“Valley fever is an endemic fungal disease that impacts many of our Central Valley communities,” McCarthy said. “In the first six months of 2018, there have been twice as many reported cases of Valley Fever in Kern County compared to last year during this same period. With cases on the rise, we must redouble our efforts to develop a vaccine for this disease, as well as improve the diagnostic tools and treatment options available to those who suffer from it. This legislation is designed to do just that.”
The legislation would establish a three-tier approach to attacking Valley Fever. In the short-term, it would prioritize research for fungal diseases, create a blockchain program to protect patient privacy and establish a working group at the federal level to manage research efforts. In the medium-term, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval process would be streamlined to get diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines more quickly approved, while an antifungal diagnostic and treatment development would be added to a public-private partnership. Lastly, in the long-term, the vaccine would be encouraged through market incentives and an FDA priority review voucher program.
“Valley Fever touches the lives of all of us living in the endemic regions,” Rob Purdie, vice president of the Valley Fever Americas Foundation, said. “The amount of hope this bill holds for patients like myself and the families of patients like mine is beyond expression. The Valley Fever Americas Foundation has been working to prevent and cure Valley Fever for nearly 20 years, and the amount of promise this bill holds is immeasurable.