Kern Medical, Rep. TJ Cox host town hall forum on Valley Fever

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Roughly 100 people, including elected officials, medical professionals, students, and Valley Fever patients gathered at Bakersfield College Thursday for a town hall on Valley Fever.

Congressman TJ Cox co-hosted the forum where he discussed Valley Fever-related legislation he plans to introduce in congress.

“This affects so many people and so many communities,” the Congressman said as he spoke on a panel that included medical professionals, patients, and Valley Fever experts.

Those in attendance included Kathleen Birks. Her son, Shane Hoover, passed away in May due to complications of the disease.

“What I remember most about him was his joy, the things that he loved, and life was one of them,” she said while holding up a picture of her late son.

Valley Fever is a potentially deadly disease caused by breathing toxic spores found in the soil in the Central Valley. The majority of people who breathe in the spores have little to no symptoms, but 40 percent will get symptoms similar to that of the flu, but more severe. There were 2,937 cases in Kern County in 2018, according to the Kern County Department of Public Health.

“He was a 23-year-old boy trapped in a body that could not function,” Kathleen Birks said, remembering her late son Shane Hoover, who passed away from complications of Valley Fever.

“He was a 23-year-old boy trapped in a body that could not function,” Birks said during the forum where Congressman Cox addressed plans to introduce legislation that would do threefold:

  1. Help those with the disease identify they have Valley Fever.
  2. Train medical professionals to diagnose and treat Valley Fever.
  3. Enroll Valley Fever patients in clinical trials.

“These are important investments that we can make; One to prevent people from getting the disease, and once they have the disease to bring about those cures that much more readily,” Cox, who sits on the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), said.

Specific information about how much funding would be part of the legislative package was not immediately known.

Meanwhile, Birks said she will continue her mission to spread awareness for Valley Fever, and ensure her son will never be forgotten.

“My son is a legacy to this disease, and he helped find things that work and things that didn’t work,” she said in tears. “I don’t want him to be forgotten. Thank you for remembering my son.”

*In order to prevent Valley Fever, it’s important you stay inside on windy days, and be sure to see a doctor if you feel flu-like symptoms. Valley Fever is the only disease with its own website, http://kerncountyvalleyfever.com/.

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