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A year after symposium, progress against valley fever slow

August 2, 2014

David Leon is always glad when a nurse changes his intravenous bag to amphtericin-B, a powerful antifungal medication.

"It's yellow. I call it lemonade," he said during a visit Friday to a Bakersfield pulmonologist.

The arrival of the yellow bag, which has been preceded by other medications, means the 45-year-old Leon's roughly four-hour course of treatment for valley fever is about half over. He has endured this regimen three times a week for about six weeks in an effort to control the disease that in December forced the amputation of his left leg.

Also called coccidioidomycosis, valley fever is an infection of the fungus Coccidioides. The fungus is common in the soil of the western and southwestern United States, including California's San Joaquin Valley. Digging and strong wind sometimes sends spores airborne, where they can lodge in the lungs.

Last September, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, organized the Kern County Valley Fever Symposium where physicians, patients and public health officials met for two days to learn about the disease and brainstorm solutions. Among those in attendance were officials from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced a randomized controlled trial to get a better understanding of how to treat the illness.

That raised expectations. Finally, the fight against valley fever was getting some traction.

But less than a week before the city's third annual Walk for Valley Fever on Aug. 9 and nearly a year after the symposium, how much has actually changed?

Read more in The Bakersfiled Californian.