Lawyer Warns of Risk of Valley Fever Outbreak to Prison Population
On Monday, an attorney for prisoners at two California prisons told a federal judge that thousands of inmates should be transferred from the facilities immediately because of the threat of valley fever, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Zaveri/Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/17).
About Valley Fever
Researchers estimate that more than 150,000 people nationwide contract an airborne fungus known as valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, each year.
The cocci fungus is commonly found in soil in much of the Southwestern U.S., and is especially common in California's Central Valley.
People can contract valley fever by breathing in cocci fungal spores.
Details of Current Outbreak
In early May, CDC began investigating the deaths of more than three dozen California inmates who had contracted the fungus at Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons in San Joaquin Valley.
The investigationÂ was launchedÂ after federal receiver J. Clark Kelso -- who is charged with monitoring the state's prison health care system -- ordered the relocation of about 3,200 high-risk inmates from the two prisons.
Details of Brown's Filing Last Month
Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration in a court filing last month saidÂ that it would be premature to transfer thousands of inmates from the prisons until more is known about the outbreak.
The filing says that the complexity ofÂ swapping high-risk inmates with other inmates who are less susceptible to valley fever makes it difficult to comply with Kelso's order. It adds that the order is unclear about which inmates should be moved and which are able to stay in the facilities.
In addition, the administration says that the state should not transfer the inmates until officials learn whether actions taken by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are effective in limiting the exposure of all prisoners and staff to dust that carries the fungus (California Healthline, 5/7).
Details of Recent Arguments
On Monday, Warren George, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, told U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson that 18 inmates have died from complications related to the fungus in 2012 and January 2013. He argued that more inmates would die if prisoners are not transferred immediately.
However, Walter Schneider -- a lawyer with the CDCR -- said that the state should delay transferring prisoners until CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have completed an investigation of the outbreak at the two prisons. Schneider said the study likely would be completed by December.
State officials suggested relocating about 600 medically high-risk inmates by August while the study is conducted.Henderson did not issue a ruling on Monday (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/17). 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.