Health

Just One Breath
5:17 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Taxpayers spend millions on valley fever in prisons

Californians are locked into contributing to the cost of treating state inmates sickened by valley fever. 

Since 2006, the state prison system has tried but failed to reduce the disease’s impact and price tag.

California Correctional Health Care Services foots an annual bill of about $23 million for sending inmates with valley fever to hospitals outside the prison, guarding these patients, and for their antifungal treatments. That’s about what it costs to build a new school in Fresno County.

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Health
10:46 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Prescription Overdose Deaths By Teens Up, Summit Seeks Solutions

More teenagers are abusing and dying from prescription drug use.  Members of law enforcement, counselors, and prevention specialists gathered in Sacramento for a statewide summit on Thursday to see what can be done to reverse the trend.   

Sherrie Rubin and her son, Aaron traveled to Sacramento from San Diego for the summit.  They were among the 140 participants.  Sherrie says Aaron started abusing pills in high school. 

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Health
8:59 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Millions of Californians May Still Be Uninsured in 2019

Millions of Californians may still be living without health insurance five years after the full implementation of the federal health law. 

A UC Berkeley and UCLA study projects two to three million Californians will have new health coverage by 2019. But co-author Ken Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Labor Center is looking at the other number.

“As many as 3 to 4 million Californians are predicted to remain uninsured.”

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Health
10:51 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Chocolate Milk Gets Remixed At Fresno Schools

Credit Licensed using Creative Commons from Maria Pontikis / http://www.flickr.com/photos/anthimeria/3813431974/

The saying goes “milk does a body good.” But despite that, too few of us really drink the white stuff, and that includes adults and kids.

In an effort to get more kids to benefit from the nutrients milk offers many school districts including Fresno Unified served up flavored milk, both chocolate and strawberry.  So along with their daily intake of vitamin A, calcium and potassium, students were also getting sugar a lot of sugar, about four additional teaspoons in an 8 ounce serving of chocolate milk.

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Just One Breath
6:30 am
Sat September 15, 2012

Just One Breath: Valley fever robs daughter of mother at crucial time

Candice Steed remembers peering at her mother through a hospital room window in Bakersfield when she was just 8 years old .

Sharron Steed lay heavily sedated, a ventilator keeping her weakened body alive.

“They told us to say goodbye to my mom,” recalled Candice , now 20.

Sharron, a social worker, had contracted a severe form of valley fever. It ravaged her body with night sweats and fevers. A collapsed lung landed her in the hospital, and the symptoms only got worse.

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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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