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Valley Fever Cases at California Prison Increase in 2009

According to The Fresno Bee, the number of cases of Valley Fever among California prisoners at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009. Data reported by prison officials to the Fresno County Public Health Department indicate that 311 prisoners were diagnosed with Valley Fever in 2009, compared with 159 in 2008.

Regardless, the Fresno County grand jury released a report on January 25, 2010 claiming the number of Valley Fever cases at the prison had dropped by more than half. Although it did not reveal the source of its information, the report stated, “Statistics show a definite drop in cases and the grand jury believes that the medical staff [at Pleasant Valley] should be commended.”

Researchers believe environmental factors play a role in the spread of Valley Fever, a soil-borne fungus that is prevalent in Coalinga and nearby communities in both California and Arizona.
According to Richard Hector, director of the Valley Fever Vaccine Project and a researcher at U.C. San Francisco, little can be done to prevent Valley Fever, which is incurable and po-tentially fatal, though not contagious. [See: PLN, Aug. 2007, p.1; June 2008, p.22].

Prison officials are reportedly making efforts to ensure that prisoners with poor immune systems are not sent to Pleasant Valley State Prison. Other preventive measures also have been taken, such as using gravel to cover open areas to prevent the soil from being disturbed, which can spread fungal spores. For more information about Valley Fever, see:

Source: The Fresno Bee

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