Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:
"This week, I am proud to announce the creation of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, which will take new strides to increase awareness in the fight against Valley Fever and promote the development of a Valley Fever vaccine. The Task Force already has bipartisan support, including other Members from California, as well as from Arizona and Texas—other states where this disease is
"Many, if not all of us, know a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who has been affected by Valley Fever. My good friend Lori Crown, who dedicates so much of her time to the Kern County Honor Flight Program, moved to Bakersfield from Hawaii in 2000. Only a few months later she began to suffer flu-like symptoms, and it was some time before she was finally diagnosed with coccidioidomycosis (also known as Valley Fever). While Lori is doing well today, there are thousands of others like her in our communities and across the American southwest who have caught Valley Fever and have had to go through the long, taxing experience of overcoming this disease. There are millions more in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas who live in areas where the fungal spore that causes Valley Fever resides in the soil.
"I believe public awareness is simply not where it could be for a disease that kills more Americans than the West Nile Virus each year. However, Valley Fever affects less people than the flu or many other diseases, which presents problems to combating it. For instance, developing a vaccine is costly and time consuming. Because of Valley Fever’s regional nature, the return on investment might not make up the cost of developing a vaccine, or a treatment for that matter, compared to the flu because not enough people get the vaccine. One of the goals of the Task Force is to pursue policies and activities that help encourage the development of a Valley Fever vaccine through collaboration with the public sector, academia, and the private sector.
"I have also met with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci to discuss Valley Fever. Within the Executive Branch, these officials are charged with protecting the public health and promoting medical research within the Federal government, and I am working with them to develop a strategy to help move towards vaccine development, as well as to increase awareness and prevention of Valley Fever. Through the creation of the Task Force and encouraging the collaboration of the best minds throughout government, our communities, and our research centers, I am hopeful that we will have the resources, focus, and strategy to make great strides the treatment and prevention of this terrible disease.