Congressman Kevin McCarthy held a valley fever roundtable in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
McCarthy, co-chair of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, led the meeting along with Arizona Rep. David Schweikert, his co-chairman on the task force. The goal of the discussion was to get an update on what is being done to address valley fever and gather feedback on what needs to be done moving forward — treatment, diagnosis and getting an eventual vaccine for it.
Leading valley fever researchers, patient advocates and other professionals from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health participated in the event, as well as other members of Congress.
“I’m very excited that we have CDC and NIH here, and a lot of others,” he said. “You all know in this room the challenge of what valley fever has done, the lives it has cost us. Let’s build off where we were before, let’s get an update on where we are, what we need to finish the job.”
Schweikert said valley fever research has come a long away over the past five years, and he expects that a major breakthrough could come sooner rather than later with the help of the valley fever experts at the roundtable.
“If it’s true that we’re three-to-five years from an animal vaccine, I’m giddy about that,” he said. “Help us understand if there’s some creative things we can do…to cut down on the timelines. Help us be creative to get that human vaccine done.”
Schweikert said he wants to know what it would take to get a vaccine ready for testing sooner, such as additional funding, streamlining the process or providing more population and patient data.
Media were invited to cover the opening remarks of the roundtable discussion but the event itself was not public.
Valley fever is a disease that infects people through fungal spores that live in soil. Patients may experience flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever and chills. While most people are able to live with valley fever, it can be fatal for the most vulnerable populations, such as young children and the elderly.
In 2017, valley fever killed nine people in Kern County and infected 2,929, according to the Public Health Services department. The numbers for 2018 are expected to be released sometime in April.