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Congresswoman Karen Bass

Representing the 37th District of California

Rep. Bass Joins Rep. McCarthy In Introducing Historic Valley Fever Legislation

July 26, 2018
Press Release
Today, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, introduced H.R. 6562, the bipartisan FORWARD Act with fellow Co-Chairman Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-6) and Task Force Members Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-2), Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37), and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9). This legislation would strengthen research and help advance treatment and vaccine development for Coccidioidomycosis, commonly known as Valley Fever, as well as other orphan endemic fungal diseases.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the primary sponsor of the bipartisan FORWARD Act, released the following statement:

“Valley fever is an endemic fungal disease that impacts many of our Central Valley communities.  In the first six months of 2018, there have been twice as many reported cases of Valley Fever in Kern County compared to last year during this same period. With cases on the rise, we must redouble our efforts to develop a vaccine for this disease, as well as improve the diagnostic tools and treatment options available to those who suffer from it. This legislation is designed to do just that.

"Since coming to Congress, stamping out Valley Fever has been a top priority of mine.  From focusing Federal and local efforts on this disease at the 2013 Valley Fever Symposium in Bakersfield to working with the NIH and CDC leadership to prioritize research efforts to introducing the FORWARD Act, my hope is that one day, Valley Fever will join the ranks of polio or smallpox – a relic of the past that has been eradicated through the ingenuity and hard work of the men and women who are dedicated to finding better treatments and ultimately, a vaccine.”

Congresswoman Karen Bass released the following statement:

“I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to combat Valley Fever. The impact this disease has had on communities in Southern California and the greater Southwest region of the country will be significantly mitigated by advancing treatment and vaccine development. As a former health professional, I’ve seen lives saved by scientific research, which is why I hope Congress can come together to pass this good piece of legislation.” 

Background

·      The full bill text of H.R. 6562 can be read here.

·      Coccidioidomycosis, commonly referred to as Valley Fever, is a disease caused by fungal spores found in the soil in arid regions primarily in the American southwest. Symptoms can range from flu-like to being so severe that bones, skin, eyes, and even the brain can be affected. While most individuals infected with Valley Fever will never experience symptoms, for those who do, they are often serious and sometimes life-threatening. 

·      According to Valley Fever experts, there currently is no vaccine or cure for this disease and existing treatments vary in efficacy.

·      The Finding Orphan-disease Remedies With Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act is designed to advance sustained efforts to combat Valley Fever in the short, medium and long-term. Specifically, the FORWARD Act would in the:

o   Short-Term: Immediately support and prioritize basic research for Valley Fever and other fungal diseases, establish a blockchain pilot program so that medical researchers can more easily access clinical data for research while preserving patient privacy, and create a Federal working group to coordinate research efforts on Valley Fever;

o   Medium-Term: Streamline the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process to get new antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines approved for use in humans and add antifungal diagnostic tool and treatment development to the successful public-private partnership CARB-X program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and,

o   Long-Term:  Encourage the development of a Valley Fever vaccine by extending Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act market incentives to antifungal vaccines and create a FDA priority review voucher program for endemic orphan fungal diseases, similar to the existing voucher program for rare pediatric and tropical diseases, to further incentivize the development of new treatments, cures, and vaccines for diseases, such as Valley Fever.