Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The federal official in charge of healthcare in California prisons has directed that more than 3,000 inmates be moved out of state lockups that are infected with a lethal fungus known as valley fever
The directive from medical receiver J. Clark Kelso requires state officials to "exclude" especially vulnerable inmates from Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons near Coalinga in the Central Valley. The list includes HIV-infected inmates, prisoners with chronic medical conditions, African Americans, Filipinos and others of Asian descent. Of the more than 8,200 inmates at the two prisons, the medical receiver estimates 40% — or 3,280 — must be moved immediately. It is not clear why certain populations are more prone to the infection than others. But from 2008 to 2010, at least 355 prisoners required hospitalization, and the receiver reported 34 deaths related to valley fever from 2006 to 2011, most of the victims African Americans. Valley fever is caused by the soil-borne spores of Coccidioides, a fungus common to semiarid regions of the Southwest and Mexico, particularly California's Central Valley. Most of those infected suffer no more than a flu-like bout of fever and aches. About 1% develop lethal infections that ravage their bodies. Health officials say that they don't know whether African Americans are more apt to contract the fungus, or more likely to become seriously ill when they do.