Governor approves $3M for valley fever research in Kern County

A request for $3 million in funding for valley fever research was approved by Gov. Jerry Brown this week.

The governor signed into law a request by Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, for money for research at the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center. The money will be used to expand research and treatment at the institute as well as increase the number of patients who can receive treatment.

“This has been a long, dramatic fight to get this funding to where it is needed most and where it will be most effective,” Fuller said in a news release. “The Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center is well-positioned to make the most of this investment, and provide the most direct care to patients who are fighting this devastating disease.”

Fuller had initially made the request in February, with the backing of Assemblymen Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.

The $3 million request is part of a total of $8 million one-time general fund money set aside by the state for valley fever research and outreach efforts.

“After decades of caring for valley fever patients, the Valley Fever Institute will now have the funding needed to proactively expand our efforts and aggressively tackle ways to better treat, prevent and cure valley fever,” said Russell Judd, CEO of Kern Medical Center.

According to Kern County Public Health, valley fever infected 2,929 people and killed nine in the county last year, the highest number of cases in the past 12 years.

Cases have been on the rise for the past four years and have nearly tripled, rising from 1,013 cases in 2014 to nearly 3,000 in 2017. The only year that got close to 2017’s numbers was 2011, with 2,745 cases.

Valley fever is a fungus found in soil. When the soil is disturbed, dust containing spores is released. When breathed in, they cause symptoms similar to a cold or flu, attacking the respiratory system and sometimes causing infection.