Salas Bill to Educate Doctors and Public on Valley Fever Goes to Governor

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Assemblymember Rudy Salas presents one of his valley fever bills in committee

AB 1790 would increase awareness about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

 SACRAMENTO – Last week, the Assembly unanimously approved the third valley fever bill authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) this year. Assembly Bill (AB) 1790 – or the Valley Fever Education, Early Diagnosis, and Treatment Act – requires the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to conduct an outreach and awareness campaign designed to educate healthcare providers, physicians and the general public about the symptoms, tests, diagnosis and treatment of valley fever.

“When you talk to valley fever patients or read about the disease, the one factor that shows up over and over again is that the disease is commonly misdiagnosed,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Delays in diagnosis can have devastating effects on health outcomes for patients. Increased awareness among physicians and vulnerable populations is one of the best tools that we have to fight the disease until a vaccine or cure is developed.”

“Valley fever infection rates have been steadily, and alarmingly, increasing in California,” said Michelle Gibbons, Executive Director of the County Health Executives Association of California. “The California Department for Public Health just recently reported that 2017 recorded the highest annual number of new valley fever cases on record. While it remains unclear why California has experienced such large increases, we do know that the general public is not fully aware of the disease and valley fever is often misdiagnosed once people go to seek treatment.”

Timely diagnosis, early assessment, and proper treatment of valley fever infections are critical. However, a lack of awareness among the public and among healthcare providers can result in delayed or missed diagnoses, leading to worse health outcomes and increased health costs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 150,000 cases go undiagnosed every year in the United States because many patients are not tested for valley fever. The CDC also estimates that 60 to 80 percent of valley fever patients are given one or more rounds of antibiotics before receiving a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In addition to putting the patient at increased risk of health complications from valley fever, it also puts patients at unnecessary risk of drug resistant infections by prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed.

Studies have proven that those who know about valley fever and its symptoms are more likely to be tested and accurately diagnosed. Moreover, studies have repeatedly concluded that increased awareness and education among physicians and healthcare providers is necessary to reduce delays in diagnosis and missed diagnoses.

Through an awareness campaign conducted by CDPH that would include physician education and outreach, AB 1790 would help raise awareness and reduce instances of misdiagnosis for valley fever. The bill cleared the Assembly 80-0 and now heads to the governor’s desk.

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Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Hanford, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.