SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A lawsuit was filed in federal court in Sacramento on July 14 against the state of California on behalf of 58 current and former inmates who contracted Valley fever while serving time in one of the state’s Central Valley prisons. The lawsuit accuses the state of knowing for years that the incurable disease was being spread throughout Central Valley prisons, but did nothing to address the problem, reported The Sacramento Bee.
Valley fever is an infection caused by a fungus in the soil that can get into the air and is then inhaled when people breathe. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, fever, cough, night sweats, a shortness of breath and a rash on the upper body or legs. Some inmates, particularly Filipinos, African Americans and Latinos, are more susceptible to severe illness after contracting the disease than others. Inmates with health problems such as diabetes or HIV also are more prone to greater illness if infected. Lawyers for the inmates said in court filings that state officials knew some prisoners were at an elevated risk of contracting the disease, and that those inmates should never have been housed at Pleasant Valley or Avenal state prisons, but were placed there anyway.
Hundreds of inmates have contracted the disease in recent years in the state’s Central Valley prisons, and it has contributed to the deaths of more than 30 inmates since 2005. The state has imposed on inmates “a lifelong, crippling and sometimes fatal disease in addition to their lawfully determined sentences,” the suit claimed.
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