Coccidioidomycosis is the medical term for valley fever, an airborne fungal disease that led to more than 5,600 reported infections in Arizona in 2014; the disease is also prevalent in some areas of California. PLN has previously reported on valley fever cases among Hawaii prisoners housed at the privately-operated Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. [See: PLN, Aug. 2016, p.56]. According to a recent investigation by Honolulu’s Civil Beat newspaper, numerous cases of the disease at Saguaro have gone unreported.
A provision of the Arizona Administrative Code requires correctional administrators to report to local health authorities “all cases or suspected cases” of communicable diseases. The Civil Beat’s review of Pinal County Public Health Services District records found that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had not reported a single case of valley fever at the Saguaro facility since 2007. However, conflicting records from the Hawaii Department of Public Safety indicate that at least four prisoners have been infected with the disease – one case each in 2014 and 2015, and two cases in 2016. The department hasn’t tracked older cases.
CCA denied that it had violated any reporting requirements. According to spokesman Jonathan Burns, the company “always strives to fulfill applicable state rules, and we have no reason to believe that appropriate reporting of valley fever incidences at [Saguaro] have not been made.” Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said in a statement, “We are looking into this allegation and will respond appropriately if we do find evidence of any violations.”
While exposure to valley fever does not always result in serious infections, the disease can have long-term health impacts and disproportionately affects certain populations, including blacks and Filipinos.
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