Valley Fever outbreak at California prisons
July 5, 2013
An outbreak of Valley Fever at two California prisons prompted a federal judge on Tuesday to order the state to relocate thousands of prisoners to other facilities. [ABC]
State correctional officials have agreed to transport 2,600 at risk inmates including all black and Filipino prisoners to other California prisons. Inmates with compromised immunities or of specific heritages are several times more likely to contract the illness.
During the past three years, 900 of the 5,300 prisoners at California’s Pleasant Valley State Prison have contracted the disease. At Avenal prison, just 10 miles away, the numbers are similar. Officials report the fungus has played a role in at least 36 prison deaths over the past six years.
The evacuations are coming at a time California’s 33 adult prisons are at 150 percent capacity. To make space for the transports, healthy non-black or Filipino prisoners will be moved to the San Joaquin Valley.
Prison officials have voiced concerns that moving prisoners based on race could increase racial tensions and gang violence.
Most people who breathe in the spores develop no symptoms at all. Others, about 40 percent, develop flu-like symptoms including cough, congestion, fever, fatigue, body aches and headaches that can last a month or more. Valley Fever can lead to severe pneumonia, meningitis and death.
Cases of Valley Fever in California have skyrocketed in the past decade, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley. Statewide, reported cases increased 71 percent from 2001 to 2011.