New bill tries to combat Valley Fever

Miranda Defoor, Reporter

Rudy Salas (D-Calif.) proposed a legislative package on Jan. 8 to combat Valley fever. The four proposed assembly bills focused on different areas of Valley fever awareness, treatment and correct diagnosis.

Valley fever is common in Kern County and it is almost impossible to avoid exposure to the disease-causing fungus in the area. There is no vaccine, despite Valley Fever being potentially fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control there have been an average of 200 Valley fever related deaths a year since 1997.

Valley fever is a lung infection caused by a fungus in soil, according to the CDC. Most cases in the United States are from California and Arizona. Valley fever symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, rash, fever, and many more. Cases can range in severity. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses, so it is often misdiagnosed.

Bakersfield resident Cheyenne Wagner experienced the trouble of Valley fever misdiagnosis when her mother became sick. “They misdiagnosed her twice to the point that she nearly died,” Wagner said. Her mother was diagnosed Jan. 2016 but had a relapse in Sept. 2016 due to a flu shot. Wagner’s mother was hospitalized twice before doctors knew what was wrong with her, though according to Wagner, her mother knew she had Valley fever.

“Doctors just assumed it was the flu,” Wagner said, “They need to be aware of the signs and symptoms because Valley fever can kill.”

The different bills proposed in Salas’s package include things like annual reporting deadlines, lab testing diagnosis, protecting construction workers at risk, and helping doctors better recognize and diagnose the disease.

Assembly Bill 1787 will require the Department of Public Health to report all confirmed Valley fever cases by March 1, each year, starting in March 2019.  Assembly Bill 1788 will allow the DPH to use lab tests to confirm Valley fever cases. Assembly Bill 1789 creates more health and safety standards with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Assembly Bill 1790 requires doctors to have continuing education about Valley fever diagnosis and treatment.