Warn tourists and residents about the dangers of Valley Fever and fund the vaccine and cure projects
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A public health crisis for tourists and residents
Regulated for 16 years in two antiterrorism laws
Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease that has been disregarded and ignored for far too long by the medical community, endemic states (particularly Arizona and California) and the general public. Considering the hospital cost data in California alone (EID 2013), cost increases suggest the national economic burden of Valley Fever now to be over $1 billion annually. In a classic text on the disease (Stevens 1980) it was estimated that ten million Americans were already infected. One can only imagine how many millions more the epidemic has infected in the decades since.
Massive failures of testing, treatment, and education have been reported in major medical journals, but little of this information is filtering out to the general public. Most reports from the media and even public health organizations suggest that Valley Fever is a tiny problem for all but a few. This obviously could not be further from the truth.
Uncovering the whole truth about Valley Fever was no easy task. The organization Valley Fever Survivor (VFS), founded by David Filip and Sharon Filip, has been the voice and hub of the Valley Fever community since 2002. They have been working with various organizations in the health care and Valley Fever community all these years. VFS has collected invaluable data and has helped and spoken with thousands of Valley Fever patients and their families. With their dedicated medical document research from over a decade, VFS has all the medical data necessary to prove Valley Fever is a major national and international problem. Valley Fever needs to be addressed in the following ways:
1) Disease information promoted by all health departments should replace the false information that minimizes the disease with the research that proves its seriousness. Medical documentation to prove the possibilities of reactivations, reinfections, and severe cases have been collected in the book "Valley Fever Epidemic" and across decades of medical document research from VFS.
2) The fungus that causes Valley Fever, Coccidioides sp., should be returned to the CDC Select Agent list so it can continue to be regulated as a biological weapon. Its inclusion on the list allowed its regulation in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. None of the reasons for its inclusion on the Select Agent list had changed and all of the reasons for its removal in 2012 are easily refuted.
3) Congress and the President should appropriate and approve the funding necessary for the Valley Fever vaccine and cure projects. It could cost $100 million to bring the current vaccine and cure work to completion. This is a tiny sum compared to the billion dollars the disease is hemorrhaging from our health care system every year. Whether through Orphan Drug legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, or any other means of appropriation, funding this research to completion would cost only a fraction of the annual expenses caused by the disease itself. Even greater than preventing the loss of money is preventing lifelong suffering and the loss of lives.
4) Congress should invite research expert David Filip to speak in an open hearing about the medical information VFS has brought to light. To show how this medical information impacts real people, Filip can bring survivors to supply testimony from those who lost their health, their livelihood, or their family members to Valley Fever.
5) Tourists and residents alike should be warned about risk areas for Valley Fever. Anyone who breathes can contract the naturally occurring biohazard Coccidioides sp. so everyone should be warned that it can be deadly or create an incurable lifelong illness. This could easily be done in endemic states' tourism publications and web sites.
Only by taking these common sense actions can we truly win the fight against Valley Fever.
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