Health

News on health, wellness and health care

California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration says it will start moving about 860,000 children in the Healthy Families program into Medi-Cal on January 1st. But as Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, state lawmakers and doctors want them to slow down.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg sent a message to the administration last week.  

“Do not make the actual transition unless you are assured that the child who has a doctor and sees a doctor under one program – HF’s – will be able to have ready access to a doctor when they’re shifted.”

Valley fever treatments can do harm as they heal

Dec 8, 2012

Thousands of California and Arizona adults and children annually contract valley fever and find themselves battling the disease for months or years — missing work and school, spending weeks in the hospital — with frequent recurrences.

If they had a bacterial infection — food poisoning, strep throat or a boil on the skin — their doctor could reach for multiple, cost-effective antibiotics that usually are able to kill the bacteria, even though resistance to antibiotics is on the rise.

December 1st is World AIDS Day. Here in California, health officials say the face of the disease is getting younger. 

More than 110,000 Californians are currently living with an HIV or AIDS diagnosis, and roughly 14 cases are diagnosed in the state every day. 

Dr. Gil Chavez of the California Department of Public Health says he’s seeing more cases among young, gay, minorities. 

“The 13-24 year age group is the only demographic group in the state where we have seen an increasing – in new HIV infections.” 

For Some California Prisoners, Valley Fever Becomes A Life Sentence

Nov 26, 2012
Kevin Walker

Kevin Walker arrived at Taft Correctional Institution, a federal prison in western Kern County, in December 1999 to serve a 14-year sentence for attempted possession of cocaine.

But another kind of sentence awaited him, one far more painful than confinement alone.

In July 2001, fluid-leaking boils broke out across Walker’s face and body. Once he was diagnosed with valley fever, doctors put him on an antifungal drug — amphotericin B — but the drug was so powerful that it caused his kidneys and liver to begin failing.

Valley fever takes an animal toll, and pets rely on the same treatments as people

Nov 19, 2012
Henry A. Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

The first valley fever victim that Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis remembers was Mbongo — a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo

“I was a kid in San Diego at the time and saw the article in the newspaper,” recalled the veteran researcher on the animal’s 1942 death from the disease, also known as coccidiomycosis. “I didn’t know what cocci were at that time, but I knew that a gorilla at the zoo had died.”

Valley Fever Research For Pets May Yield Benefits For Humans

Nov 19, 2012
Henry A. Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

Dogs, not people, may hold the key to improved treatments, even a possible cure, for valley fever.

One way researchers have lured private money is by proposing research projects involving pets, the theory being that companies and donors would see more of a market potential in dogs and cats suffering and dying from the disease.

Dogs and humans get hit with valley fever in a very similar way. They inhale spores from a fungus common in the soil in the Southwest. The spores take root in the lungs and can spread to other organs and parts of the body.

Courtesy UC Berkeley Media Relations

A new UC Berkeley study adds to research that suggests flame retardants common in California homes are linked to neurodevelopmental delays in kids.

The study followed nearly 300 women from pregnancy to when their children were 7 years old. Researchers tested mother's levels and then the children's levels for the flame retardant compound polybrominated diphenyl ethers, known as PBDE. They wanted to assess in utero effect as well as childhood exposure, says lead researcher and UC Berkeley epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi.

California plans to tell the federal government this week that it will operate a key component of the federal health law on its own. 

States have until the end of this week to tell the federal government if they will operate their own health insurance exchanges. States also have the option to receive help, or have the federal government manage their marketplaces.

The California Health Benefit Exchange board has signaled its intent to go it alone by approving a detailed operations plan and grant proposal.  

Valley Fever Changes Young Girl's Life

Nov 13, 2012
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle

Emily Gorospe cannot sit still. The spunky 7-year-old with long, brown braids loves to make up dances in her bedroom. When she’s not dancing, she’s jumping rope, or hula hooping.

But last spring, when she was just six, Emily became very tired and sick. She developed a fever that wouldn’t go away and red blotches appeared across her body.

“She’s got so much energy usually. Just walking from one part of the house, from her room to the living room, or to the kitchen, she was drained.”

Misdiagnosis of Valley Fever Prolongs the Suffering

Nov 12, 2012
Henry A. Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

Jayden Lugo has had 56 surgeries in her short life.

The 10-year-old from Wasco in California’s Central Valley has brain damage, uses a walker to get around, undergoes therapy once a week and takes three pills every night before she goes to bed.

‘Last Distraction’ Removed as California Moves Ahead on Health Reform

Nov 7, 2012

First, there was uncertainty over a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Then came the race for the presidency.

Now, California lawmakers say the uncertainty is over and nothing can stop them from bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Californians under President Obama’s signature health care law.

“This removes the last distraction and question from anyone’s mind that we won’t be launching a dramatic expansion in coverage in California,” said Peter Lee, executive director of California’s health insurance exchange, a key piece of the expansion.

The California Department of Public Health announced today that consumers should not eat Bolthouse Farms carrot chips in 16 ounce bags with “best if used by” dates of November 12, 2012 and November 13, 2012, because the carrots may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Bakersfield based Bolthouse Farms issued a voluntarily recall of the carrots after the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services detected the bacteria in one of the packages during routine testing. 

The board of the California Health Benefit Exchange has approved a new name and logo for the health insurance marketplace that will expand coverage under the federal health law.

Planners decided on “Covered California” after months of testing and consideration.

“I have a whole raft of staff that are saying, ‘Finally, I can get a business card," said Peter Lee, Executive Director of the Exchange, which is now known as ‘Covered California.’

He said planners used focus groups to come up with a name that resonated with a diversity of Californians.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When Benjamin Franklin wrote that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" he had no idea he would be describing one of 2012's hottest trends in health care and investments, something known as social impact bonds.  The details are complex, but the concept is based around a simple idea.

More People Dying from Valley Fever, Especially Those With Chronic Disease

Oct 17, 2012
Henry A. Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

More people are dying from valley fever than previously thought, and illnesses including diabetes, lung disease, arthritis and certain cancers may increase a person’s chances of dying from the disease, according to a new study.

This past year, researchers have puzzled over the rise of valley fever cases. Diagnosed cases have grown from 1,200 in 1995 to more than 20,000 in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Now researchers have new evidence to consider: a study to be published in the November issue of the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

Public Health Champion Felled by Diabetes and Valley Fever

Oct 17, 2012

The last time Linda Jue saw her husband alive, he was in the intensive care unit in a lot of pain.

Right before doctors gave him painkillers, Jeff Jue gave her two thumbs up and smiled.

The former Merced County mental health director was fighting for his life at the time. Doctors at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto were treating him for valley fever.

Jue was starting to enjoy his retirement when it was suddenly cut short by the fungal disease.

“He had only been retired for three years,” said Linda Jue, who lives in Modesto.

California health leaders say moving nearly 900,000 children in the Healthy Families program over to Medi-Cal will help the state get ready for the federal health overhaul.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley spoke in advance of a legislative oversight hearing on the transition.  

“There are a number of advantages for the children in the Medi-Cal program, it does give the security of knowing where their coverage will be in advance of 2014.” 

Dooley says kids in the two programs have some of the same providers.

Plague Found in Animals in California's Mountain Regions

Oct 12, 2012

California health officials are alerting people to protect themselves from plague after animals in Northern and Southern California tested positive for bacteria that cause the disease.

El Dorado County officials say there may be elevated plague risk in the South Lake Tahoe area after a chipmunk was found positive at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center.

Dr. Vicki Kramer of the California Department of Public Health says the finding isn’t cause for alarm, but it’s a reminder to take precautions.

Town hall event focuses on valley fever concerns

Oct 7, 2012
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

San Joaquin Valley residents, doctors and experts demanding improvements in the way valley fever is studied, diagnosed and treated shared their concerns during a town hall meeting hosted by state Senator Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, in Bakersfield on Friday.

Experts stressed the need for earlier diagnosis of the disease. That requires better education about the disease for providers and the public, they said.

Valley fever vaccine effort lacks federal funding

Oct 7, 2012

The federal government is the single biggest source for the primary research that leads to new vaccines. 

But, like the pharmaceutical industry, it currently is not supporting a valley fever vaccine. Other diseases that affect far fewer people receive much more federal support. 

Tularemia only affects about 200 people in the country annually, less than 1 percent of the estimated 150,000 people hit by valley fever. Like valley fever, the disease is primarily concentrated in only a portion of the country, mostly in the south-central and western part of the country.

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