California considers funding Valley Fever vaccine research

Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield)
Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield)

California is considering legislation to allocate $1 million to fund Valley Fever vaccine research.

Valley Fever is a fungal infection that causes flu-like symptoms including cough, chest pain, fatigue, fever, chills and sweats. It is caused by the coccidioides fungi found commonly in the soil in some areas, but can be dispersed into the air by any event that disrupts the soil.

“SB 115 is needed to complete research in progress on Valley Fever vaccine and provide protection for citizens at risk in these areas,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jean Fuller, a Republican representing California’s 16th district. “This yearly investment will provide a real commitment to Valley Fever research and the discovery of a cure.”

While the Mayo Clinic reports that most mild cases resolve on their own, 75 percent of Valley Fever cases require the patient to miss work or school, and 40 percent require hospitalizations. Though antifungal medications can treat the infection, there is currently no cure.

Many counties in California, including heavily hit Kings and Fresno, have reported Valley Fever cases on the rise. Over the last 13 years, case counts of Valley Fever in California have increased almost eightfold, from 719 cases to 5,697.

Fuller said reported cases totaled more than 16,000 from 2009 to 2012, and reached a peak of more than 5,000 cases in 2011. During that period, 213 patients died from Valley Fever.

California previously invested $1 million into the development of a vaccine in 2009, but funding was discontinued in 2010.