Tuesday, Sep 24 2013 04:33 PM

Most at-risk inmates removed from two valley prisons, state declares

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    In the "Just One Breath" series on valley fever, the Reporting on Health Collaborative found that California Correctional Health Care Services pays about $23 million annually treating inmates suffering from valley fever, including the cost of sending them to hospitals outside prisons and guarding them.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- California prison officials said Tuesday they have met a federal judge's order to transfer nearly 2,000 prisoners prone to valley fever from two Central Valley prisons in areas particularly hard-hit by the potentially deadly fungal infection.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it met the judge's goal a day after federal government scientists announced in Bakersfield that they were launching a major medical experiment in search of a treatment for valley fever, which is prevalent in California and Arizona.

The fever swept through two Central California prisons over the past six years, killing 36 and hospitalizing hundreds more.

A federal judge on June 24 gave prison officials 90 days to complete the transfer of prisoners prone to the fever to other prisons outside the region.

A prison spokesman said Tuesday 750 inmates prone to the illness remain at the prisons. Several declined transfers. Others just recently qualified for transfer, and corrections spokesman Jeffrey Allison said officials are working to transfer those prisoners.

Blacks, Filipinos and inmates suffering from diabetes and HIV are among those thought to be prone to valley fever, and the judge ordered transferred from Avenal and Pleasant Valley prisons.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health made the announcement about of the clinical trial Monday at a symposium about the infection in Bakersfield.

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