Via the Visalia Times-Delta: Valley fever research may get funding boost. Excerpt:
A bipartisan task force made up of lawmakers across the Southwest, including Representative Devin Nunes, scored a victory in Washington this week in its quest to add the fungus that causes Valley fever to a list of pathogens the government has a heightened interest in combating.
Signed into law in 2012, the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now, or GAIN Act, created incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop antibiotics to treat new and emerging drug-resistant bugs. The incentives in this act will now extend to researchers studying valley fever.
Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides, which is common in the soil of the southwestern United States, especially in the San Joaquin Valley.
Over the last several years, the Tulare County health department reports there has been an average of about 200 cases per year.
Many people infected by the fungus suffer passing flu-like symptoms, but in less than five percent of local cases, the fever is fatal, County Health Officer Karen Haught said.
Tulare dairyman Joseph Bakker, 35, has been battling the fever for about a month. It began with headaches. But the headaches, followed by a nasty cough, just wouldn't stop.
Bakker visited a clinic nearly two weeks into his illness that gave him some antibiotics. When the pills failed to help, a blood test was done that determined he was infected with valley fever.
After receiving the diagnosis, he was referred by other dairymen who've had the fever to a physician who they say has a good track record fighting the fever. Bakker's now two weeks into his treatment.
"I can't say I feel better, but I feel like I'm on the right path now," he said.
Still, work is difficult. He's worked sparingly the last three weeks. The fever, he said, saps his energy.
"I'm exhausted," he said.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, co-chairs the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, which has been trying to raise awareness of valley fever and funnel more public money into research for a vaccine and cure.
On Wednesday, McCarthy and co-chair U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale, Ariz., released a joint statement about the inclusion of the fungus on the list.
"The decision by the Food and Drug Administration to add the underlying fungi species responsible for valley fever to the list of qualifying pathogens is a big win for our constituents suffering from this disease," it read. "FDA's actions will help with developing an effective treatment and vaccine for this disease."