Kelly, Sinema, Schweikert Introduce Bill to Fight Valley Fever
Today, Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, along with Congressman David Schweikert, introduced the Finding Orphan-disease Remedies with Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that supports research initiatives to combat Valley fever, a disease caused by a fungus commonly found in desert soils that can infect the lungs of humans and canines.
“Arizonans know the dire impacts of Valley fever all too well, and without action, this disease will pose deadly health risks to a growing number of Americans with few tools to treat it,” said Kelly. “We’re working to invest in the treatments and public health strategies needed to protect the health of Arizona families.”
“Funding research and vaccine development to combat Valley fever protects Arizona families and pets in the short-term while strengthening our public health response against future infectious diseases in the long-term. I’m proud to be working with researchers, entrepreneurs, and Valley fever experts at the University of Arizona on future health care solutions,” said Sinema.
“I’m pleased to reintroduce the FORWARD Act this Congress as our Valley Fever Task Force makes significant progress in improving care, treatment, and research into this terrible disease that has devastated so many lives in our communities,” said Rep. Schweikert. “As we’ve seen Valley Fever cases rise across the western United States over the last decade, it’s critical that we continue to prioritize the delivery of medical breakthroughs that will help treat our family members and their beloved pets. This bipartisan legislation helps to combat Valley Fever by providing resources to further close the scientific gap in understanding this disease, support research, and accelerate vaccine development that will hopefully eradicate it once and for all.”
“The FORWARD Act is an important step towards addressing the problems posed by endemic and other fungi, especially, Coccidioides, the cause of Valley fever. A vaccine discovered at the University of Arizona is now in development by Anivive Lifesciences to prevent Valley fever in dogs, and there is every reason to think it would also protect humans. The FORWARD Act will be critical to developing this vaccine to protect people from Valley fever,” said Dr. John Galgiani, Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Valley fever is a fungal infection that is regularly present in Arizona and other parts of the American Southwest, with cases spreading to other parts of the United States. This infection is contracted by breathing dust containing a certain type of fungus that is too small to see that can impact both humans and animals. Five to ten percent of people with Valley fever will develop serious, long-term lung problems, according to the CDC.
Arizona Department of Health Services data suggests that in 2019, there were 10,359 reported cases of Valley fever in Arizona, but there are currently no over the counter medications available to treat Valley fever. The Valley Fever Center of Excellence estimates Valley fever costs Arizona approximately $736 million per year.
The FORWARD Act is designed to one day stamp out Valley fever by:
- Authorizing $500,000,000 to support public-private partnerships to prevent and slow the spread of Valley fever infections.
- Streamlining the process to approve new vaccines and treatments for Valley fever.
- Establishing a working group at the Department of Health and Human Services to advise on strategies that confront gaps in science that can help detect, treat, and eradicate Valley fever.
Click here for the full bill text.