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Military's Early Valley Fever Research Still Benefiting Public Health Today

Dec 5, 2017
Lemoore Army Flying School Class 43B yearbook

In the city of Lemoore, a community of 25,000 rising out of arid cropland in California’s San Joaquin Valley, almost everyone has a story about valley fever.

Take Frank Bernhardt, nursing a beer at the Fleet Reserve bar on the edge of town. He first encountered the disease just after moving here in the 1960s. “Years ago, my youngest daughter had it. She just didn't have no energy,” he said.

“I had a sailor that worked for me that had it,” recalls Kevin Crownover, playing dice across the bar. “He probably missed about a week's worth of work.”

Kern County Department of Public Health

New data from the California Department of Public Health show that cases of valley fever are on the rise across the state. The airborne fungal disease is also the subject of a new public awareness campaign in Kern County, featuring sheriff Donny Youngblood.

Kern County Announces New Awareness Campaign For Valley Fever

Nov 7, 2017
Center for Health Journalism Collaborative

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood grew up in Kern County. He hikes here, he rides horses here and he golfs here. He remembers elementary school field trips to Shark’s Tooth Hill to dig for relics here. He has done just about everything that could put him at risk for breathing in the coccidioidal fungal spore that causes valley fever, the insidious respiratory disease endemic to the area.

A relative got sick and died from the disease years ago after he was misdiagnosed. Then, a few months ago, Youngblood’s significant other got sick. Youngblood decided to get tested.

Valley Fever Advocates And Legislators Vow To ‘Press Harder' After Governor Rejects Critical Bill

Oct 24, 2017
Center for Health Journalism Collaborative

Even as valley fever cases are sharply increasing in Central California, Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have created programs to inform the public about the little-known respiratory disease.

Don’t Let Edie’s Death From Valley Fever Be In Vain, Her Sister Pleads

Sep 3, 2017
Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Initially, doctors thought Edie Preller had pneumonia, then tuberculosis, or maybe bronchitis. They quarantined her and ran tests. Six months later they discovered that she had inhaled a deadly spore from a fungus that grows throughout the region. The spore caused a disease called valley fever, which spread from her lungs into her brain.

Preller had been an in-home health care worker, taking care of other people who were ill. Then, in her 50s, she ended up in a losing battle for her own life, spending her last three years in and out of a hospital.

Just One Breath: States Skimp On Valley Fever Awareness

Aug 28, 2017
Henry Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

Valley fever infects more than 13,000 people annually in Arizona and California and kills more than 100. Yet the two states spend less on public awareness about the disease in one year than what the Bakersfield City School District spends on lunch milk for a month and less than what Pima County’s Parks and Recreation Department spent on janitorial supplies in 2016.

Sean Work / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

Assemblymember Rudy Salas says California needs to do more to track valley fever cases, and fund research into the disease. Last month he introduced legislation that in Sacramento that would provide $2 million in funding for the disease, which is especially prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley. Salas spoke to Valley Public Radio this week about the bill and it's path forward at the capitol. 

Assemblyman Seeks Valley Fever Funding, Overhaul Of Reporting Guidelines

Feb 21, 2017
Courtesy KABC Los Angeles / Center For Health Journalism Collaborative

Responding to a surge in cases and inconsistent reporting practices, Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced legislation Tuesday that would allocate millions of dollars to valley fever vaccine research and streamline information sharing.

Assembly Bill 1279 would bring $2 million to an already-established state fund for valley fever vaccine research and create guidelines for how local, state and federal agencies report cases.

3D Imaging Could Answer Fundamental Questions About Valley Fever

Feb 21, 2017
TGEN

A Phoenix-based laboratory is capturing detailed images of the fungus that causes valley fever, hoping to better understand how it works.

The research could shed light on why the disease spreads at higher rates for Americans of African, Filipino and Mexican descent than others, said Bridget Barker, an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University and the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN).

Juan Solis Lives A Life In The Shadows, His Health Destroyed By Valley Fever

Feb 21, 2017
Casey Christie / The Bakersfield Californian

When Juan Solis shuffles out of his dark bedroom, he’s careful not to get too close to the windows.

He makes sure he only walks his dogs at night.

If he must go out during the day, he lathers on sunscreen, makes sure his legs and arms are covered, even during the peak of summer in Bakersfield’s blistering heat. And he never forgets his sunhat.

Valley Fever Dog Vaccine Research Could Help Humans, Too

Feb 5, 2017

Headline: Randy Ford had never heard of valley fever when he moved to Tucson from Salinas, Calif., with his dog, a reddish brown vizsla named Tyler.

"A few days before Tyler died he was raising hell – chasing toys in the pool. Then all of a sudden he quit eating, and he'd stand outside his doggie door and shake like it was cold," Ford said.

Accurate Valley Fever Counts Elude Health Officials

Nov 28, 2016
Casey Christie / The Bakersfield Californian

Estimates of the number of valley fever cases recorded by local, state and federal agencies vary so widely that they call into question the accuracy of the figures released to the public, a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative investigation has found.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

This year, you’re likely to hear a lot of predictions about how the drought will impact our health, environment, and food.

But one thing you won’t hear is whether the dry conditions will – without a doubt - increase the risk of valley fever in California. Sure, it makes sense. Even microbiologist Antje Lauer expects that drought conditions, and drier soil, would increase the risk of valley fever.

“If we want to have less of the valley fever fungus in the soil, you would pray for more rain,” Lauer says. 

Henry Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will undertake a clinical trial to learn more about valley fever, agency leaders announced Monday at the start of a two-day symposium on valley fever, hosted by Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

"There are so many things we don't know about valley fever, and the best way to get the answers is to run a clinical trial," said National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

All inmates at risk of developing a serious form of valley fever must be removed from two Central California state prisons within the next 90 days. That’s what a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday, upholding a directive from the federal official in charge of prison health care. The ruling comes over the objections of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which balked at the complexity of the policy. Valley Public Radio’s Rebecca Plevin takes us behind the prison gates to explain how the state and inmates are coping with the problem. 

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