California Tests Inmates For Valley Fever

Jan 12, 2015

Valley Fever is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides which is common in the soil in the Central Valley.
Credit Craig Kohlruss / The Fresno Bee

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is spending more than $5 million dollars to test around 90,000 inmates for the potentially deadly illness. The goal is to reduce number of infections, and determine who can be housed at both Avenal and Pleasant Valley Prisons.

The results from the newly available skin test will reveal who is at a higher risk of catching Valley Fever and who is not. Those found to be in high-risk groups will not be transferred to the two prisons.

“We’re trying to get everybody done today on Monday and all of the reading will be done between the 44 and 52 hours," says Liz Gransee, a spokeswoman for the California Correctional Healthcare Services. “This is a one-time statewide test however we will be incorporating this to our receiving process as well.”

Valley fever is caused by a fungus that thrives throughout the Central Valley and other parts of the Southwest, sending out spores. Those infected can experience flu like symptoms but in severe cases it can lead to long term disability or death. In recent years a number of prisoners have sued the state after contracting the disease.

The testing results are expected to be available next week.