Inmates File Lawsuit Against California Officials Over Valley Fever
Last week, four inmates who contracted Valley fever while incarcerated in California state prisons filed a lawsuit against several state officials -- including Gov. Jerry Brown (D) -- for not adequately protecting them from the illness, the Fresno Bee reports.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, alleges that several state officials knew about the risk of Valley fever at the facilities but did nothing to mitigate that risk.
According to the Bee, the lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions related to Valley fever in California prisons (Ellis, Fresno Bee, 6/6).
Researchers estimate that each year more than 150,000 people nationwide contract Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis. People can contract the airborne fungus by breathing in cocci fungal spores.
The fungus typically causes mild to severe influenza-like symptoms. However, the infection also can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body and cause symptoms such as skin abscesses, blindness and death (California Healthline, 7/28/14).
Earlier this year, California spent more than $5 million to test about 90,000 prison inmates for Valley fever in an effort to reduce the number of infections this year.
The illness -- which is can occur in the Central Valley and other dry locations -- infected 197 inmates in 2013, including four cases that contributed to inmates' deaths, and 21 cases through June 2014, with no reported deaths (California Healthline, 1/12).
Most individuals who have been exposed to the illness become immune (California Healthline, 1/30).
Luis Patino, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the agency "has been working to mitigate Valley fever for years." Patino added that the state has taken steps to:
- Reduce the amount of dust in correctional facilities;
- Move inmates who are deemed at risk of contracting the illness to facilities outside the "Valley fever endemic zone"; and
- Study methods of reducing Valley fever infections at Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons (Fresno Bee, 6/6).
Senate Passes Valley Fever Research Bill
In related news, the California Senate last week unanimously approved a bill (SB 115) that would allocate $1 million for Valley fever research at the state Department of Public Health.
The bill, by state Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), now moves to the Assembly (Fuller release, 6/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.