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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 the disease and seven died.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The streets of Fresno can be dangerous—not just to drivers and bicyclists, but also to pedestrians. Following a trio of fatal accidents last week, more pedestrians have died this year than in all of 2015, and they’ve made up more than half of all traffic-related deaths. Now, a new city plan aim to make the city safer for walking.

It’s 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in this part of southeast Fresno, that means one thing: school’s out.

Facebook page of Congressman Kevin McCarthy

Bakersfield’s Kern Medical has selected to work with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control on a new clinical trial for valley fever. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the announcement Thursday at the hospital. The study aims to learn more about both diagnosing and treating the disease.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that grows in the soil throughout the southwest, including the Southern San Joaquin Valley. If inhaled it can cause serious health problems, those most people never know they have been infected.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Sometimes in public policy, especially in health care, most everyone agrees there is an obvious problem. But more often than not, getting everyone to agree on a solution is much harder. That’s what is happening right now when it comes to access to mental health care in the Central Valley and two mental health facilities are showing that gap in a stark way.

First, let’s get the ‘thing everyone agrees on’ out of the way.

It’s probably not a surprise that the Central Valley has a severe shortage of mental health facilities and providers.

Kern County Public Health Services Department Facebook

A new report from the Kern County Public Health Services Department is looking at the issue of childhood deaths in the county. According to the report, 51 children under the age of 17 died in the county last year.

Around 40 percent of the deaths were accidental, including drowning and car crashes. Another 40 percent were considered undetermined, meaning there was insufficient or conflicting evidence for the coroner to issue a cause of death.  

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

While the City of Fresno tries to figure out what to do about discolored water at some homes in Northeast Fresno, some residents there are already taking drastic steps, including repiping their homes.

On a normal day, the first thing you notice when you enter the home of Faith and Buzz Nitschke is the dozens of antique clocks quietly ticking away.

But that is not the case on this day.

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we look how local residents growing up in neighborhoods filled with violence are dealing with "toxic stress" - a condition often compared to PTSD. We also learn how large wide-body air tankers are changing the fight against wildfires, and hear from Dr. Dana Suskind, who talks about the 30 million word gap and what it means for early childhood development. Later in the show we get a preview of the new season of the San Joaquin Valley Town Hall Lecture Series, which features Dr. Michio Kaku, Leon Panetta and Dave Barry.

In the first part of a series on the health impacts of violence in the community, Valley Public Radio introduced you to the family of a mentally ill man fatally shot by police. His case is an extreme example but the mental and physical health impacts of violence can be seen in more subtle ways too. Now some people are now comparing violence in the valley with a well-known condition often connected to war.

Joey Williams has spent nearly his entire life living in east Bakersfield.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The last time we reported about the Fresno Needle Exchange, it was an illegal program, operating without support from policymakers and under threat of police intervention. It became legal in 2012 under a state law. Now, the program is more popular than ever, and new research suggests it’s making the community safer.

Michael lives in north Fresno. He’s 56. He studied social work and he’s now self-employed. He has a daughter in nearby Dinuba. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Have you ever called your doctor or hospital seeking an appointment and been told the wait will be weeks or maybe months? You have been affected by the Central Valley’s doctor shortage.

Now more than one group is pushing a potential solution, locally sourced doctors from a new medical school.

Being in a waiting room at the doctor’s office isn’t the most pleasant place to be.

But waiting to get into that waiting room can be even worse.

That is what health care experts call a ‘doctor shortage’ and in the valley it’s bad.

http://www.ncclf.org/new-grocer-in-central-fresno/

A new partnership between two California groups is making it a little bit easier for residents of one older Fresno neighborhood to get fresh healthy food. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports. 

For the first time in more than 15 years a new grocery store is set to open in an underserved Central Fresno neighborhood.

Kerry Klein/KVPR

The state estimates that over a million Californians lack access to safe drinking water. After 15 years with arsenic contamination, one small Kern County community took the struggle for clean water into its own hands--in a campaign that could serve as a role model for others.

It’s recess at El Camino Real Elementary School in Arvin and the courtyard is packed. Kids play tag and tetherball, and laughter echoes throughout the yard.

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition Reporter Kerry Klein visits the Tulare County community of Matheny Tract that will soon have drinking water for the first time in 10 years. KVPR's Jeffrey Hess reports on what's going to happen to all the trees being torn out of Fresno's Fulton Mall. Also on the program we hear from Karen Humphrey, Fresno's First Woman Mayor. Humphrey will speak at the Fresno chapter of the League of Woman Voters 75th anniversary on May 18.

51FIFTY Facebook

A popular energy drink will soon be off the shelves of one of the largest grocery store chains in the state. But the decision this week by Save Mart to discontinue the sale of 51FIFTY brand products isn’t about the ingredients of the drink, it’s about its name. As FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports, local activists say the products send the wrong message about mental health stigma.

  

Effort To End "Surprise" Medical Bills Resumes In Sacramento

Mar 22, 2016
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An effort to do away with “surprise medical bills” narrowly failed in the California Legislature last year, but patient and consumer advocates think they can resurrect it this year. Ben Bradford reports from Sacramento.

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