Avenal State Prison

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As communities across the southwest struggle to prevent valley fever, a sometimes-debilitating fungal disease, one community appears to have made progress: California state prisons, where inmates are at a significantly lower risk of valley fever than they used to be. Here, we explore why—starting with one man who wasn’t so lucky.

Richard Nuwintore was barely three weeks into his sentence at Taft Correctional Institution when he began to cough and experience chest pain. Within a few days, it was obvious something was wrong.

CA Department of Corrections

More than 2,100 California inmates will have to be moved from two Central Valley prisons because they may be susceptible of contracting valley fever.

Results from skin tests conducted earlier this month showed an additional 3,050 inmates have already been exposed to the potentially deadly illness.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will move the inmates from Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons but officials are still determining where the inmates will be transferred to.

Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is spending more than $5 million dollars to test around 90,000 inmates for the potentially deadly illness. The goal is to reduce number of infections, and determine who can be housed at both Avenal and Pleasant Valley Prisons.

The results from the newly available skin test will reveal who is at a higher risk of catching Valley Fever and who is not. Those found to be in high-risk groups will not be transferred to the two prisons.