Salas Fights for Families Affected by Valley Fever

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

AB 1279 provides $2 million for Valley Fever research and reporting

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) ­­­­­1279 which directs resources toward Valley Fever, a disease that affects residents in counties throughout California.  Specifically, AB 1279 allocates $2 million for research and will establish guidelines for reporting cases of Valley Fever.

“Valley Fever has been reported from almost every county in California but 75% of cases have been found in people who live in the Central Valley and that is alarming,” said Assemblymember Salas. “The responsibility for identifying and warning the public of widespread diseases falls on local public health agencies, some of which have no set guidelines for defining epidemics.  AB 1279 will invest in research and help health officials more accurately understand the disease.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, between 1999 and 2011, the rate of infection of Valley Fever in California rose more than 600 percent, from 939 cases in 1999 to 5,697 cases in 2011.  Through June of 2016, Kern County reported 890 cases compared to 1,174 for the entire year of 2015.  In the first month of 2017, there have been 26 confirmed cases of Valley Fever in San Luis Obispo County resulting in two deaths.  

Inconsistencies in the reporting of cases make it difficult to target resources.  Furthermore, California does not currently have an official statewide method of tracking the rate of Valley Fever infections. For example, last year the California Department of Public Health reported that Kern County logged 455 cases.  Kern County itself, however, reported 890 cases to The Bakersfield Californian.  In addition, reports of people infected with the disease from the CDC have never exceeded 23,000 cases nationwide, despite expert estimates that the disease infects more than 150,000 people across the Southwest alone, with 50,000 being sick enough to require medical attention. 

Valley Fever is an infectious disease caused by a fungus called Coccidioides which lives in the soil and dirt in dry areas especially in parts of California affected by drought.  The fungus usually infects the lungs causing flu-like symptoms. Most of the time symptoms get better on their own. Some people with Valley Fever may develop severe disease.  When Valley Fever is severe, patients may need to be hospitalized and in rare cases, the infection can spread beyond the lungs to other organs. The disease is also found in some areas of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Texas, and parts of Mexico and Central and South America.