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Rep. Kevin McCarthy has created a Congressional Valley Fever Task Force
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Rep. Kevin McCarthy has created a Congressional Valley Fever Task Force
AV Press
July 30 2013
Congressional team to combat Valley disease


By: Allison Gatlin

With the rising number of valley fever cases being reported in his district and across the West, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has created a Congressional Valley Fever Task Force to champion the issue and direct energies toward eventually finding a vaccine.

"Many if not all of us know a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker that has been affected by Valley Fever and our fight against this disease continues," McCarthy said. "I am honored that my colleagues in Congress are joining our community's growing effort to raise awareness and eradicate this disease."

The disease, with the clinical name of coccidioidomycosis or cocci for short, is caused by a fungus found in the soil of parts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The fungal spores may be released when the dirt is disturbed, then breathed into the lungs of those who become infected.

Reported cases of valley fever overall have been on the rise in recent years, according to public health officials in Los Angeles and Kern counties and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The first aim of the task force is to help raise awareness of the disease, which is sometimes considered an "orphan disease" as it is found only in the desert Southwest. People, especially those just visiting the area, may not know they could be susceptible to valley fever. Diagnosis may be hampered by doctors in other parts of the country who are unfamiliar with the disease and its symptoms, which mimic the flu.

The second goal of the task force is working toward better diagnostic and treatment options, McCarthy said.

As an example, he cited a San Diego-based firm, Allermed, which has obtained Federal Drug Administration approval for a valley fever skin test. However, the fee for the company to begin selling the test is $700,000, too high for a product that will have a limited customer base, he said.

McCarthy is working with the FDA on obtaining a fee waiver to allow the company to begin sales of the skin test, and has now enlisted the aid of the CDC and National Institutes of Health.

Finally, the task force will be working in support of an eventual vaccine for valley fever.

"That would be the ultimate goal," McCarthy said, adding he realizes it is not something to be quickly accomplished.

The task force will take part in a congressional meeting next week at the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona in Tucson, McCarthy said. A meeting with experts on the disease from the CDC and NIH is scheduled in Bakersfield in September.

"This is something that should be beyond partisanship because it reaches everybody," McCarthy said.

He has been working on the issue on his own for some time, but decided to bring in others for whom the disease is a concern in their states and districts.

"It's a regional issue," he said, one that does not raise the same concerns for those in states where it is not commonly found.

Joining McCarthy on the task force is Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, the Santa Clarita Republican who shares representation of the Antelope Valley with McCarthy.

"I applaud Congressman McCarthy for establishing this task force and look forward to working with him and the other members to do whatever we can to stop this outbreak in its tracks and to prevent future cases from developing," McKeon said.

Also on the Valley Fever Task Force are co-chairman Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.; Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.; Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif.; Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas; Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.; Rep. Kevin Calvert R-Calif.; and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

agatlin@avpress.com
30-07-2013 06:54 PM
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Valley fever on rise; seminars this week
AV Press
Sept 22, 2013
Valley fever on rise; seminars this week


By: Allison Gatlin

Cases of valley fever are on the rise in the region, and concern about the disease has increased as well, with the frequent dust storms experienced this spring.

Amid this growing concern, residents are invited to learn more about this disease, who is at risk and what researchers are doing to combat it in a symposium organized by Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

The Valley Fever Symposium will take place Monday and Tuesday in Bakersfield. All events are open to the public and free of charge.

"Through this symposium, we will continue the ongoing collaboration and involvement among our community, academia, the private sector and federal officials to improve diagnosis and treatments. Our goal is to continue raising awareness and prevention of this disease as well as continue to work on developing a vaccine," McCarthy said.

The Bakersfield Republican in July created a Congressional Valley Fever Task Force to champion the issue and direct energies toward finding a vaccine. McCarthy's district includes Antelope Valley residents in Kern County and parts of Lancaster, as well as a swath of the San Joaquin Valley where the disease is a growing problem.

The disease, with the clinical name of coccidioidomycosis, or cocci for short, is caused by a fungus found in the soil of parts of the southwestern United States. The fungal spores may be released when the dirt is disturbed, then breathed into the lungs of those who become infected.

Reported cases of valley fever overall have been on the rise in recent years, according to public health officials in Los Angeles and Kern counties and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary figures for 2012 for the Los Angeles County portion of Antelope Valley show 81 reported cases, for a rate of 20.9 illnesses per 100,000 people. The desert areas of Kern County from Rosamond to Ridgecrest had 106 cases in 2011, for a rate of 135 per 100,000.

The symposium will begin with a program aimed at local awareness and education, organizers said.

An evening reception for valley fever survivors and guests begins at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Kern County Department of Public Health's Hans Einstein Center, 1800 Mount Vernon Ave.

"In our communities, all of us know someone affected by valley fever," McCarthy said. "As we launch this year's Valley Fever Symposium, we want those that have been affected by this disease to share their personal stories and experiences."

The reception will be followed at 5:30 p.m. with a community forum at the same site.

The forum will feature McCarthy, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden and National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins.

The symposium will continue Tuesday at California State University, Bakersfield, with a full day of presentations scheduled. All the day's events will take place in the multipurpose room at the university, 9001 Stockdale Highway.

The sessions are slated to begin at 8 a.m. with a "state of the science" report from leading experts on valley fever.

Beginning at 1 p.m., the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force will talk about its efforts, followed at 2 p.m. by a discussion of the public policy and challenges in addressing the disease in California.

At 3 p.m. will be a presentation regarding how valley fever affects susceptible populations such as children, the elderly and those who are pregnant, followed at 4 p.m. with presentations regarding the disease's impacts on pets and other animals.

For details, call McCarthy's Bakersfield office at (661) 327-3611 or send email to RSVP.McCarthy@mail.house.gov.

agatlin@avpress.com
22-09-2013 06:36 PM
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