Sacramento, CA — California inmates who contracted a potentially fatal illness known as valley fever are suing the state for lifetime medical care. The federal lawsuit wants class action status for black, elderly and medically at-risk inmates at two Central Valley prisons who fell ill to the naturally occurring airborne fungus since July 2009.
Officially called coccidioidomycosis, or cocci for short, it is an airborne fungal disease. Wind can blow microscopic spores from soil into the air that can attach to the lungs. It can also eat away bones and attack the brain. There is no known cure and incidents are on the rise with over 20,000 cases reported annually throughout the Southwest. The hardest hit areas are California and Arizona.
Last week a federal judge ordered California to transfer about 2,600 vulnerable inmates out of Avenal and Pleasant Valley prisons in the San Joaquin Valley. This move comes at the same time the state moving 1,700 seriously sick and mentally ill inmates to a nearly $840 million Stockton medical complex, and fighting another court order forcing the state to free nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year to ease crowding and improve conditions.