The Importance of State Funding for Valley Fever Treatment and Research

Before the Assembly Budget Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services, I presented a proposal to provide a $3 million research grant to fund Valley Fever treatment, research, and outreach at the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical. Joining this effort is State Senator Jean Fuller and Assemblyman Rudy Salas. I am very pleased that our proposal is gathering strong bipartisan support.

Valley Fever is a significant health issue facing Kern County and it is growing at an alarming rate. Two decades ago, California had 719 reported cases of Valley Fever. Today, that number has skyrocketed, rising to over 5,300 cases in 2016. Over 40% of these cases were from Kern County alone.

Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal disease caused by breathing in fungal spores that grow in undistributed soil. Spores are lifted into the air from naturally occurring winds, dust storms, earthquakes, and other activities that disturb the top few inches of soil. The symptoms are flu-like symptoms that can lead to death. It is critical for patients to be treated early in order to have the best chance of keeping Valley Fever from turning deadly. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Valley Fever.

The $3 million in funding I requested will be a significant step in ensuring patients get the treatment they need as early as possible. I am working hard to foster a greater state and local partnership in order bring as much resources to the table to help our doctors and local health authorities who are on the front lines fighting Valley Fever each and every day. Kern Medical has been providing high quality care for patients affected by Valley Fever for decades and its expertise and knowledge are unparalleled.

The Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd joined me as I presented this request to the budget committee and he also testified in support of our efforts. Judd stated: “After decades of serving the Central Valley community, we are poised to increase our reach to better meet the demands of the community and throughout the State and Country. Expanding the Valley Fever Institute will allow us to continue our mission of providing quality patient care, increasing awareness, and promote research, and will help alleviate the burden that so many patients and families feel with the effects of this devastating disease.”

The Valley Fever Institute is led by renowned physicians Dr. Royce Johnson or Dr. Arash Heidari who specialize in Valley Fever diagnosis and treatment and together have decades of experience. The funding will allow the institute to establish the “Infectious Disease Fellowship” program, build a repository of specimens that will enable ongoing research, and develop education programs that will raise awareness among physicians and the general public.

Kern County through the leadership of pioneers like the late Dr. Hans Einstein and Dr. Tom Larwood has led the way over the years. And the Valley Fevers of Americas Foundation has mobilized survivors to share their stories of how this disease has impacted their daily lives. I will continue to push for all the resources available to fight Valley Fever and I look forward to keeping you updated on this important effort.