News on health, wellness and health care

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.