Third Salas Valley Fever Bill Signed Into Law Will Improve Education & Awareness

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Assemblymember Rudy Salas presents AB 1790 in Senate Health Committee with Assemblymember Timothy Grayson and valley fever advocates

AB 1790 will help increase awareness about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 1790, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield). 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.

“Raising awareness, educating the public and providing doctors with the resources and educational materials they need to provide an early diagnosis will have a huge positive impact for families affected by valley fever,” said Assemblymember Salas. “This legislation is a big step forward to meet the growing number of cases across our state. I thank the governor for recognizing this need by signing this legislation.”

Timely diagnosis, early assessment, and proper treatment of valley fever 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.

“In recent years we have seen thousands of valley fever cases among children at our hospital alone," said Dr. Chokechai Rongkavilit, medical director of pediatric infectious diseases at Valley Children's Healthcare. "Greater awareness among parents, families and providers will allow them to promptly recognize the symptoms, leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment, and getting kids back to their healthy lives sooner.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 150,000 cases go undiagnosed every year in the United States. Furthermore, CDC 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.

“AB 1790 is a huge step forward in accurately diagnosing and treating Valley Fever. Making sure that the public is aware of the symptoms and that healthcare professionals are equipped with the resources, tools and knowledge to more accurately diagnose and treat Valley Fever will reduce the negative impact to the health of those affected and their families,” said Rob Purdie of Valley Fever Americas Foundation. “The Valley Fever Americas Foundation has seen firsthand the damage that a delayed diagnosis can do. We support the efforts of Assemblyman Salas to address the growing number of people affected by valley fever and are excited to see this bill signed into law.”

The total number of cases of valley fever reported by CDPH for 2017 reached a record high for the second consecutive year in California.[1] In 2016, the state reported 5,509 cases – at the time, the highest total ever recorded in the state. That number grew by nearly 2,000 cases in 2017 to 7,466 cases. The provisional numbers released by CDPH through August of 2018 indicate that the state may again see an increase of cases, with 5,139 provisional cases reported from January through August, compared with 3,102 reported during that same time period last year.[2]

“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.”

Research has shown 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. There is no vaccine or cure and prevention is difficult because the fungus spreads through the air, which is why CDC has noted that “knowing about valley fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment.” Through an awareness campaign conducted by CDPH that includes physician education and outreach, AB 1790 would help raise awareness and reduce instances of misdiagnosis for valley fever.

Assemblymember Salas worked closely this year with valley fever advocates, researchers, experts and public health officials to address valley fever through a comprehensive legislative package and through the budget. AB 1790 is the third valley fever bill authored by Assemblymember Salas to be signed into the law this year. AB 1787 and 1788, which streamline and standardize valley fever reporting, were signed into law late last month. In addition, the 2018-19 state budget included a total of $8 million for valley fever research and outreach: $3 million to UCs for research; $3 million to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical for research and outreach; and $2 million to CDPH for outreach and awareness, which funding will be used to implement AB 1790.

“This has been a big year for valley fever – both in terms of the increase in cases and in the measures that the state is taking to address the problem,” Assemblymember Salas continued. “Valley fever can have a serious impact on the lives of patients and families, especially here in the Central Valley where the disease is endemic. I am grateful and proud of the work we have accomplished this year and look forward to continue finding ways to help fight valley fever.”

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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.