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valley fever

On Monday afternoon, the federal receiver in charge of health care in California’s prisons ordered the state prison to remove inmates from two Central Valley prisons who are especially at risk of contracting valley fever.  A day later, the state and experts are digesting that directive. Valley Public Radio's Rebecca Plevin reports, as part of the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s investigation into the disease.

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Casey Christie / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

The federal receiver in charge of health care in California’s prisons is ordering the state to remove inmates from two Central Valley prisons who are especially at risk of contracting the fungal disease known as valley fever. The move affects about 40 percent of the inmate population at Avenal and Pleasant Valley State Prisons. 

Those affected include African Americans, Filipinos, inmates who are HIV positive, have compromised immune systems, or are pregnant or elderly.

Credit California High Speed Rail Authority / File Photo

This week on Valley Edition we take a look across the region at health issues, innovation, the future of high-speed rail in California and more.

Shelby Mack / The Bakersfield Californian

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will visit the San Joaquin Valley later this year to train public health professionals and the public in recognizing and defending against valley fever, Congressman Kevin McCarthy said Monday after an in-depth meeting with the agency and its director.

Craig Kohlruss / Just One Breath - Reporting On Health Collaborative / The Fresno Bee

Cases of valley fever are climbing at stunning rates nationwide, and especially in California and Arizona, according to a new study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency launched its analysis following the publication of the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s ‘Just One Breath’ series on valley fever. Valley Public Radio is a member of the partnership.

Marty Bicek / ZUMAPRESS.com

On this week’s Valley Edition we discuss the future of animal control across California's Central Valley. Host Juanita Stevenson takes the listener into Fresno County where the city and county no longer work together when it comes to Animal Control since the SPCA six months back announced it would no longer provide services to either agency.   

Sean Work / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

For Central California families impacted by valley fever, it seemed like the long-ignored disease was finally gaining attention.

"Good afternoon everyone," said former State Senator Michael Rubio, as he welcomed people to a town hall meeting on valley fever, held last fall in Bakersfield. "I want to thank you for participating and joining us."

"My goal is to listen today and then capture a handful of action items, so that we can go back to Sacramento and introduce some legislation to move the ball forward on this very important subject."

Valley Fever Stories: Bernadette Madrid

Feb 11, 2013
Photo courtesy of Bernadette Madrid

Bernadette Madrid, Bakersfield, 29

I’ve been diabetic since I was 10. I got really sick with valley fever in 2006. It’s been a long seven years.

I thought I had a flu that wouldn’t go away and I had severe pain in my ribs. I also noticed that my vision was becoming blurry, and I thought maybe I needed glasses.

Valley Fever Stories: Jerry Walker

Feb 11, 2013
Casey Christie / The Californian

Jerry Walker, Bakersfield, 59

My name is Jerry Walker and I am a valley fever survivor.

I was not born and raised here. In late 1991, I was working as a petroleum engineer for one of the largest oilfield service companies in the world. Around the second week of November, I was working on the west side of the valley and experienced a very windy day with blowing sand.

Valley Fever Stories: David Losa

Feb 11, 2013
Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

David Losa, Bakersfield, 68

After living in Bakersfield for 17 years and not catching valley fever, I thought I might be immune. Being aware that the disease was endemic in my hometown, I read everything about it that I could get my hands on.

Valley Fever Stories: Karen Werts

Feb 11, 2013
Casey Christie / The Californian

Karen Werts, 53, Bakersfield

My journey with valley fever began in August 2010. While at work at a local medical center, I felt heaviness in my chest and my right arm ached. My boss sent me to urgent care to make sure I was not having a heart attack. The EKG was normal, but a chest X-ray showed a slight shadow in my right lung. The physician said I probably had the start of bronchitis, and prescribed antibiotics. The heavy feeling in my chest never went away and my legs began to swell.

One month later, I awoke in the middle of the night with chills. Later that night, I woke up again, soaking wet. I figured I was coming down with the flu, so I stayed home from work that day.

The Reporting on Health Collaborative asked readers to share their experiences with valley fever. Here are their stories, in their own words, as told to the Collaborative's Community Engagement Editor, Kellie Schmitt. 

Their accounts capture the pain and anguish suffered by local families as doctors struggled to find the right treatment and jobs and lives were lost to the disease. Misdiagnosis was a frequent problem, allowing time for the disease to "tunnel" its way into lungs and other organs, as one survivor put it. 

Five Ways to Move the Fight Against Valley Fever Forward

Dec 22, 2012
Alex Horvath/The Bakersfield Californian

Valley fever is a humbling disease.

It can rob sufferers of their health, their life plans and their financial well-being.

Uncertainty adds to the trauma. There is no cure around the corner, no vaccine in the works and no well-organized patient group lobbying effectively for more policy attention.

The result: those who become ill often suffer in silence and feel alone.

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.

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.

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