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Valley fever

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As with much of the science around valley fever, the evidence base is still being built -- studies are scarce; data collection was erratic for years and continues to be spotty; and understanding the health effects of weather is a big, complicated task.

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A recent report by a federal agency found that prison workers who live in the community are suffering from valley fever in large numbers. In their case, the prisons themselves cannot easily be blamed.

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Many questions about valley fever remained unanswered Tuesday as public health officials, physicians and politicians finished a two-day symposium on the disease, but many were hopeful that the summit will be a turning point.

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Directors of the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell a packed valley fever symposium they are "serious" about finding a better treatment for the disease.

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The rate of people being hospitalized for valley fever has doubled in California over the past decade. Not only are more people being diagnosed with the disease but the cases are serious enough that more people are ending up in the hospital.

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On Monday, valley fever and the California area hit hardest by it will receive unprecedented attention in a two-day symposium led by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. Rarely do the leaders of CDC and the NIH - two of the most powerful health institutions in the world - join the stage.

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Valley fever hasn’t generated significant research funding. What will help move the needle? A sustained effort by public health advocates, clinicians and patients and their families and continued attention from media outlets.

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Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy made another move in his crusade against valley fever Wednesday, announcing the new “Congressional Valley Fever Task Force.”

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The struggles of some California prisoners with valley fever have largely remained hidden from the public until now as the state prison system has to move at-risk inmates from facilities where valley fever is endemic.

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Most of the people who contract valley fever live in California or in Arizona. But concerns about the disease are starting to spread -- with journalists reporting on it from other parts of the country.

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