Health

News on health, wellness and health care

Valley Public Radio

The rural Kings County community of Kettleman City, long plagued by unsafe drinking water, now has a clear path toward a clean water supply. The State Water Resources Control Board today approved the construction of a water treatment plant to serve Kettleman City. The unincorporated community’s water supply contains unsafe levels of arsenic. Maricela Mares-Alatorre is a Kettleman City resident and activist, and she says residents are ready. “Whenever you ask people what Kettleman City needs,...

Accurate Valley Fever Counts Elude Health Officials

Nov 28, 2016
Casey Christie / The Bakersfield Californian

Estimates of the number of valley fever cases recorded by local, state and federal agencies vary so widely that they call into question the accuracy of the figures released to the public, a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative investigation has found. The finding comes during a critical year for valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis. In Kern County, California, public health officials declared an epidemic in October, predicting more than 2,000 cases in that county alone by year’s end. But...

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The fungal disease can afflict individuals of any age and ethnic group—even those who have lived and worked in the valley for decades. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we travel to the annual Valley Fever Walk in Bakersfield, where a 54-year-old Kern County man shares his story of overcoming the disease. "My name is James Taplin . I was diagnosed in 2010 and, like many others, I thought I had pneumonia, but I went to my primary physician who thought I was having a heart...

CDC Technology Advances Promise Better Valley Fever Detection

Nov 21, 2016
THE CENTER FOR HEALTH JOURNALISM COLLABORATIVE

New technology could reveal the microscopic, sometimes deadly spores that cause valley fever that currently float in the air undetected. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is developing a sensor that can detect levels of the cocci fungus in the air and soil, said Christopher Braden, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging Zoonotic Infectious Diseases branch. The agency has been working on the technology for three years, and Braden is hopeful the...

Kerry Klein/KVPR

We continue our reporting this week on the fungal disease known as valley fever with a story about a potential route to prevention. One of the first lines of defense against any disease is determining who’s at risk. It’s possible to develop immunity to valley fever, and a new skin test could be used to screen for that immunity—but that’s only if the test overcomes some major hurdles. Faith Herrod wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. The 11-year-old lives in the small Central...

VINOTHCHANDAR VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Health organizations in Fresno County today announced a new initiative to reduce premature births. Right now, 11.1 percent of births in the county occur earlier than 37 weeks—that‘s far more than the state average of 8.3 percent. The new initiative, a collaboration between Fresno State, UC San Francisco, Fresno County and other groups and agencies, endeavors to reduce that to only 7 percent by the year 2025. Sandra Flores of Fresno State is the director of the initiative. "We know that babies...

Courtesy KABC Los Angeles / Center For Health Journalism Collaborative

Valley fever has long been a major health concern for people who live in the San Joaquin Valley. A fungus that grows in the soil can become airborne. If inhaled it can cause serious health issues, even death in some cases, though most people who contract the disease have a mild case, and they don’t even know they’ve had it. Now cases of the disease are up significantly in Kern County and some say it is connected to California's weather patterns. It's one theory explored in the first report of...

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Finding the perfect doctor can be a feat for anyone, but for LGBT people in rural places finding an understanding physician can sort of feel impossible. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports some say visiting a doctor's office is so intimidating that often they go without care. In 2014 Visalia pediatrician Kathryn Hall got fed up. She sees her practice as welcoming to LGBT people, but she felt that conservative values and homophobia in Tulare County have kept many from receiving proper...

Kerry Klein/KVPR

If you look at the nutrition label on a loaf of bread, you may come across folic acid or folate. It’s a vitamin that, in pregnant women, has been shown to reduce debilitating and sometimes fatal birth defects. For decades, folic acid has been added to some foods, but not others. Now, a new FDA decision to expand those foods could bring the vitamin to more people in the San Joaquin Valley. When Graciela Soto became pregnant 12 years ago, she didn’t know much about folic acid. She learned about...

Forecasting An Epidemic: Does Weather Hold The Key To Predicting Valley Fever Outbreaks?

Nov 13, 2016
Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee

When a punishing drought besieged California in the late 1980s, relief came with 30 days of rain in 1991 — dubbed the March Miracle because of how it revived the state’s agricultural economy. Those significant swings in the weather may have had another consequence, though. The next year, Kern County health officials counted more cases of valley fever than ever before, with roughly 3,342 diagnoses and 25 deaths. By contrast, a decade earlier in 1982, fewer than 200 people were diagnosed with...

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