Government Law

'Valley fever' fungus in local soil prompts request to judge to move thousands of inmates

A naturally occurring soil fungus in arid areas of Arizona and California is no problem for a number of people. But in others the fungus, which becomes airborne when soil is disturbed, causes “valley fever” symptoms that can range from aches and fever to death.

The fungus, which has had a disproportionate adverse affect on black and Filipino inmates at the Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons, is blamed for causing some three dozen deaths. Now a federal receiver in charge of California’s prison health system is asking a judge to order the transfer of thousands of inmates held in the two state prisons to different facilities, according to the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

A doctor hired by lawyers representing the inmates recommended that the prisons be closed entirely, the AP notes.

The receiver, J. Clark Kelso, issued an order requiring transfer of high-risk inmates—including black and Filipino inmates, inmates 55 and older, pregnant inmates, and inmates with HIV or diabetes—earlier this year, to reduce the risk of disease for those remaining to a “reasonable level,” Valley Public Radio explains. The state then challenged his order in federal court, and a hearing is scheduled to take place Monday.

CBS News and Voice of America articles provide further details about the fungal disease.

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