Judge considers effect of fungus on Calif. inmates

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to consider whether an airborne fungus that occurs naturally in the San Joaquin Valley presents enough of a public health danger that thousands of vulnerable state prison inmates should be moved.

Nearly three-dozen inmate deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations have been blamed on the fungus, which causes an illness known as valley fever.

The federal court-appointed official who controls prison medical care says the problem is so severe that inmates who are particularly susceptible to the disease should be moved out of Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco has a hearing Monday to consider ordering the move over the objections of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.

That would mean transferring more than 3,000 inmates at the two prisons.

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