Target: Dr. Francis S. Collins, National Institute of Health Director
Goal: Allocate funding to valley fever treatment research
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more and more people each year are contracting coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as valley fever. Valley fever, named for the San Joaquin Valley where cases are common, is an airborne fungal disease that is contracted when spores in the soil become airborne and lodge in a person’s lungs. The disease can spread to other parts of the body, including the bones, skin, eyes, and brain. One of the most dangerous features of the illness is the way in which it seems to wait before presenting its full destructiveness. Many doctors have mistaken the disease for the common cold, a distinction which has earned it the label of a “silent epidemic” by the CDC.
The disease remains a mystery to most physicians and scientists. Most who are exposed to the disease never become ill, but there are approximately 160 deaths each year, and thousands who must undergo years of treatment, surgery, and disability. Complications of the disease include ribs and vertebrae being eaten away, lesions, extreme weight loss, stroke, holes in the lungs, vomiting, narrowing of the trachea, convulsions, and the loss of the ability to remember, think, and do everyday tasks. Common treatments include spinal injections of anti-fungal drugs and combinations of oral antibiotics. In other patients there is no suitable treatment. Those who contract the disease are saddled with it for life.
According to the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, it is believed that a person’s genetic makeup influences how susceptible he or she is to the disease. However, it is difficult to determine which genes are markers. In addition, although researchers have tried to create fungicides and vaccines, efforts have been delayed due to financial issues. With over 20,000 cases reported annually within the Southwest, it is imperative that funding for this research becomes available. If not, greater numbers of people will suffer from this disease, enduring painful complications throughout their lives. In addition to physical symptoms, many patients undergo emotional trauma, including divorce, job loss, and bankruptcy. By signing the petition below, you will urge the National Institute of Health (NIH) to allocate money to valley fever research.
Dear Dr. Francis S. Collins,
The recent increase in the number of valley fever cases is of great concern to the people of the Southwest. Despite years of research, this disease is still a mystery and is difficult to diagnose. Even more concerning is the lack of treatment available to patients.
The NIH funds so many great research projects and actively strives to improve the health of all Americans. We urge the NIH to allocate money towards valley fever research. Multiple organizations and companies have already started to research gene markers and develop vaccines for the disease. However, without additional funding, this data and vaccine will never come to fruition.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Downtowngal via Wikimedia Commons