Paul Richardson was in prison in Fresno County in the 1990s when he first heard about valley fever, a mysterious fungal disease that could be caught from inhaling spores in airborne dust. He came to learn, however, that his fellow inmates had their own name for it. “We called it ‘instant AIDS,’” he says. “A-I-D-S.”
It hits people like a brick wall. In rare cases, it kills them. “Within 30 days, you lost about 50 pounds,” Richardson says.