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U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy visited the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence Thursday.

McCarthy toured a valley fever research lab at the university's BIO5 Institute as part of an effort to streamline a vaccine for valley fever and get the funding for research through the U.S. House Valley Fever Task Force.

house majority whip representative keven mccarthy focus large

Photo: Fernanda Echavarri

U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy at the University of Arizona

McCarthy and Arizona Rep. David Schweikert created the task force to take legislative action on valley fever.

"Three counties in Arizona and my county in California equate for 95 percent of all cases," McCarthy said. "This is a problem in our region in much higher levels than people understand so we want to make sure we understand how to treat it and this lab is doing the work."

More funding is required to take valley fever to the next level, McCarthy said. And, that's the goal behind his visit to the UA.

dr john Galgiani portrait

Photo: Fernanda Echavarri

Dr. John Galgiani, Valley Fever Center for Excellence director

This year there has been unusual awareness around valley fever in California, said Dr. John Galgiani, director of the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence.

"Suddenly people have become aware of what is not an epidemic this year but an ongoing problem," he said, crediting some of that awareness to the involvement of federal lawmakers.

Part of Galgiani's research could be to create a vaccine for dogs. But, he said, if that vaccine is successful, the next step would be a vaccine for humans, which costs more to develop.

McCarthy wants to raise awareness, find treatment and create a vaccine that would eradicate valley fever.

"I'm walking away much more impressed than I've ever felt and optimistic about our chances of moving forward," McCarthy said Thursday at the UA.

Fernanda Echavarri contributed to this report