BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Kern County Public Health Services hosted a press conference Tuesday to launch a new valley fever awareness campaign featuring Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
Sheriff Youngblood is featured in two promotional videos. In one of those videos, he got a skin test to see if he has valley fever. His test came back positive, meaning at some point in his life he did have the disease.
"It's kind of a frightening thought to know that you had a disease that you didn't know you had, but you survived it. Some people won't," said Sheriff Youngblood.
But his positive test result is not the only reason he is passionate about this campaign. His significant other is currently being treated for valley fever as well. He says she is doing okay, but the disease frequently wears her out.
"Dishes have to be washed, meals have to be cooked. When you have a situation where two people share those things then it dwindles to one, it can be taxing," said the sheriff.
Another advocate for valley fever awareness is Rob Purdie. Like Sheriff Youngblood, Purdie spent his whole life in Kern County. Also similarly, Purdie also has a personal connection to the disease. He was diagnosed with valley fever at the age of 38. Unlike Sheriff Youngblood and his significant other, Purdie's diagnosis was a lot worse.
Purdie is part of a small fraction of people who contract a very serious, life-threatening form of valley fever. In fact, even with today's modern medicine, 30% of people with Purdie's case die.
Since his diagnosis, Purdie had a port put in his head, which looks like a large bump. Every three weeks, Purdie has to spend the whole day at the hospital while doctors insert medication into his brain.
Because of Purdie and Sheriff Youngblood's personal connections to valley fever, they are encouraging the public to get tested. It's a simple skin test that shows if you've ever had valley fever. It costs $77 and you get your results within 48 hours. They say by knowing if you've had it before, you'll be able to gauge if you need to be careful in the future.