Health

Just One Breath
6:01 am
Sat September 15, 2012

The Voices of Valley Fever

‘Not being able to breathe was the worst.’

MERCED — The walk from Tom Price’s living room to his kitchen was only a few feet. But it felt like miles.

The 33-year-old from Merced was hit with valley fever in 2006. He had trouble breathing, and he was so fatigued for a month that the simplest tasks felt arduous.

“It was scary,” he said. “It was the first time I had ever been very sick. Not being able to breathe was the worst.”

Price remembers developing a high fever and sweats. He went to his regular doctor, who thought he had the flu.

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Health
5:49 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Federal Stimulus Dollars Boost California Electronic Health Systems

Dr. Gilbert Simon demostrates electronic health software at a Sacramento Family Medical Center.
Andrew Nixon Capital Public Radio

Hospitals and doctors offices around California are getting an infusion of federal dollars to ramp up electronic recordkeeping.

California officials say health providers have received nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in federal stimulus money to modernize their record systems.

Dr. Gilbert Simon runs the Sacramento Family Medical Clinics. He says he already has plans for this fall.

“We will be calling in all of our patients with lung diseases to get their flu shots.”

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Health
2:39 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Valley Fever Sickens Many, But Still Lacks Attention

Here in California's San Joaquin Valley, the disease known as valley fever can strike anyone at almost anyone at almost anytime. Just ask Dr. James McCarthy.

"It's pretty difficult to prevent something that you can acquire just by breathing in the air," says McCarthy. 

Just breathing in the air. Air that contains the spores of a soil fungus found throughout much of the Southwest, but especially in the southern portions of the San Joaquin Valley. 

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Mental Health
10:36 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Prop 63 Program Provides Many Paths Towards Mental Wellness

Since it was enacted in 2004, California’s Proposition 63 has raised over $8 billion by taxing the wealthy. The money was intended to pay for mental health services and prevention programs. But lawmakers have called for an audit after questions were raised about how money from the “millionaires’ tax” is being spent.

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Just One Breath
6:03 am
Sun September 9, 2012

When Valley Fever Struck Celebrated Winemaker, Doctors Missed It

Todd and Tammy Schaefer walk through a neighbor’s vineyard with their Old English Mastiff, Daisy Ray. Todd was working in a vineyard when he contracted valley fever.
Laura Dickinson/ Vida en el Valle

Todd and Tammy Schaefer appear the picture of good fortune and good health.

Tall, fit and well dressed, the couple met in Malibu, where they established their wine business. In 2001, they moved to Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, and focused on Pacific Coast Vineyards full-time.

That’s where their long nightmare with valley fever began. Early in October 2003, Todd Schaefer was running a bulldozer that kicked up a thick cloud of dust.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sun September 9, 2012

Changing climate may expand valley fever’s impact

Thomas Mace, senior scientific adviser to NASA, helps Cal State Bakersfield microbiologist Antje Lauer pour a soil sample into a test tube near Bear Valley Springs.
Shelby Mack / The Californian

Valley fever feeds on heat.

And as the average temperature ticks up with each passing decade, experts are concerned that the fungus’ footprint and impact are expanding, as evidenced by a rise in cases in areas far outside the hot spots of the Central Valley of California.

In the soil, the cocci fungus lives on dead organic matter. Less rainfall and higher temperatures reduce overall vegetation, diminishing soil competition for the hardy fungus, scientists say. Cocci spores survive—even thrive—when the environment is drier and hotter since other competitors die off.

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Just One Breath
6:01 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Just One Breath: Valley fever cases reach epidemic levels, but harm remains hidden

Dust storms like this one that blasted Fresno in June can carry millions of spores from the fungus that causes Valley Fever.
Craig Kohlruss The Fresno Bee

This special report is a project of the Reporting On Health Collaborative

Valley fever starts with the simple act of breathing. 

The fungal spores, lifted from the dry dirt by the wind, pass through your nostrils or down your throat, so tiny they don’t even trigger a cough. They lodge in your lungs. If you’re fortunate – and most people are – they go no further.  

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Valley Fever cases missed because of lack of awareness

A correctional officer watches from a guard tower seen through the razor wire near Kern Valley State Prison in Delano. The extent of valley fever’s under-diagnosis becomes clear when reviewing cases reported by prisons located in the Central Valley.
Casey Christie The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

The soaring nationwide figures for valley fever don’t tell the whole story.

Problems with screening for the disease and tracking it over time mean that thousands of cases go undetected and untreated every year, leading experts to believe the second epidemic is likely worse than documented.

Valley fever often goes unrecognized, especially in places where the disease is not widespread. Doctors aren’t familiar with its wide variety of symptoms. Often, the early symptoms of valley fever are similar to those of pneumonia.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Disease sidetracks girl with dreams of dancing

Emily Gorospe, showing off her dance wardrobe, was forced to leave dance lessons after she was diagnosed with valley fever.
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle

Very little can stop 7-year-old Emily Gorospe from dancing.

Early this summer, she twirled in her bedroom, holding to her chest her colorful, ruffled dance costumes as if they were her dancing partners.

But last spring, Emily did not have enough energy to dance – let alone walk down the hallway of her family’s home.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Valley Fever basics

What is valley fever?

Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a disease caused by a fungus called coccidioides immitis found in the soil primarily in certain parts of the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central and South America. A person can become infected by inhaling the spores of the fungus. The infection starts in the lungs, but can spread to other organs in the body and the bones.

What are the symptoms?

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Just One Breath
8:38 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

Putting Valley Fever on the Front Burner

Emily Gorospe uses an inhaler to treat her valley fever with antifungal medication.
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle Reporting on Health Collaborative

How does knowledge about unfamiliar diseases enter the public consciousness and the public policy agenda?

As editor of Reporting on Health, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this question as we launch a series by a new reporting collaborative I brought together. It includes news outlets whose reporters have participated in our California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. Reporting on Health Contributing Editor William Heisel has ably served as project editor for this effort. 

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Health
6:46 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Third Yosemite Hantavirus Death Reported

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A West Virginia resident is the third person to die of hantavirus in the last month after visiting Yosemite National Park. The outbreak of the rare disease, which is contracted through contact with the urine or feces of infected deer mice has prompted a worldwide health advisory for individuals who visited the park earlier this summer. A total of eight cases have been reported so far. All of the cases but one involve people who stayed at the "Signature Tent Cabins" at Yosemite's Curry Village. The other case involves a person who visited camps in the High Sierra.

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Food Supply
4:21 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Milk From Kerman Dairy Recalled Over Bacteria Concerns

A Central Valley dairy is once again facing a recall of its milk products, just months after a similar incident resulted in products being pulled off store shelves.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the recall of raw milk, raw skim milk and raw cream from Kerman based Organic Pastures Dairy today after a routine test discovered campylobacter in a sample of cream. The recalled products all bear the date code of September 13.

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Health Care
6:00 am
Sat September 1, 2012

State Sets Minimum Benefits for Health Plans

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

CHCF Center for Health Reporting

SACRAMENTO – Californians now have a clearer picture of what health insurance will look like when major provisions of the federal health care law debut in 2014.

Acupuncture to treat pain and nausea will be covered, for example, as will tobacco cessation and vision screening.

But the jury’s still out on chiropractic care.

State lawmakers this week sent two bills to the governor that identify the services health insurance plans must cover starting in 2014 for individuals and small businesses.

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Health
3:12 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

CDC: As Many as 10,000 Yosemite Visitors At Risk of Hantavirus

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite National Park that has sickened six and killed two could grow much larger, according to the Centers For Disease Control. On Friday the CDC  issued a health advisory, warning that as many as 10,000 people who stayed at tent cabins in Yosemite National Park between June 10 and August 24th may be at risk for the disease. 

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Hantavirus Outbreak
8:58 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Yosemite Hantavirus Cases Grow, Now Six Infected

Yosemite National Park (file photo)
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

The outbreak of hantavirus among people who visited Yosemite National Park continues to grow, as two additional people have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the California Department of Public Health. That brings the total number of Yosemite related cases this year to six. Most of the individuals who became infected stayed at tent cabins in Curry Village earlier this summer. 

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Health
2:41 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Fresno's Saint Agnes Medical Center Fined After Towel Left In Patient

Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Officials with the California State Department of Public Health today issued fines against 14 hospitals for not complying with various licensing requirements that according to the state, resulted in serious injuries or deaths.

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11:25 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Scientists Warned Officials About Hantavirus In Yosemite

Calls by scientists to warn Yosemite visitors on the dangers of hantavirus apparently went unheeded by park officials until recently. Christina Jewett of California Watch reports that a document from 2010 indicates that public health officials had suggested steps to reduce the risk of infections in the park's tent cabins, and to educate the public about the disease.
Yosemite National Park California public health scientists have twice recommended in the past five years that Yosemite National Park authorities educate visitors about hantavirus, a rare disease that is linked to the deaths of two park visitors, one illness and a possible fourth this summer.
Health
4:08 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

New Yosemite Hantavirus Infections, Death Reported

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Officials at Yosemite National Park have announced that a second person has died after contracting hantavirus during a park visit, and another is likely sick from the disease.  Earlier this month, two other people were diagnosed with the rare pulmonary disease and one died from the illness.

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Health
11:01 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Who's eligible? State, advocates grapple over which elderly qualify for ADHC replacement program

They're poor. They're elderly. They're disabled. But are they eligible? Advocates and state officials are struggling to determine just who among hundreds will be allowed to continue in the program that replaces Medi-Cal's Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) system. Cash-starved California slashed the optional ADHC benefit last fall and replaced it with a leaner program called Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS).

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