State Officials Transfer Nearly 2,000 Inmates At Risk of Valley Fever
On Tuesday, California prison officials said they have met a federal judge's order to relocate thousands of inmates at risk of contracting valley fever, AP/KPCC’s “KPCC News” reports ("KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 9/24).
About Valley Fever
Researchers estimate that each year more than 150,000 people nationwide contract an airborne fungus known as valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis.
People can contract valley fever 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.
Details of Outbreak in State Prisons
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.
In June, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ordered California to move inmates at risk of contracting valley fever out of the two prisons (California Healthline, 9/12).
Details of Transfers
Jeffrey Allison -- spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said that nearly 2,000 state inmates have been sent to other facilities where valley fever risks are lower.
He said that a "few dozen" inmates who are at risk of contracting the infection remained at the San Joaquin prisons because they:
- Declined transfers; or
- Only recently qualified for transfer ("KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 9/24).
CDC, NIH Launch Clinical Trial
Meanwhile, CDC and NIH officials on Monday announced that the agencies will launch a clinical trial to determine best practices for treating valley fever. The announcement came during a symposium in California about the infection.
According to KQED's "State of Health," the trial will cost millions of dollars and include about 1,000 individuals with community-acquired pneumonia, the most common symptom of valley fever.
The study will treat:
- Half of participants with a traditional antibiotic or a placebo; and
- Half with the antibiotic and an anti-fungal medication.
Patients then will be tested every two weeks to determine which treatment is more effective.
Thomas Frieden -- director of CDC -- said there has been a "steady increase" in the number of valley fever cases, adding, "We don't know why that's happened, and there's a lot that we need to learn" (Cook, "State of Health," KQED, 9/24).
NIH Director Francis Collins noted that the trial will not be underway for at least one more year and that results likely are several years away (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/24).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.