“There's a fungus among us.” Valley Fever is a soil-borne fungus that causes an incurable disease which results in aching joints, pneumonia and lung infections. Known also as “coccidioidomycosis”, the disease is endemic to California's San Joaquin Valley and parts of Sacramento Valley, where the fungus is kicked loose during intense farming operations. However, the disease has shown up in state prisons on a regular basis, too. Valley Fever is not contagious but can be fatal. In Kings County, 90 of the 114 cases reported in 2006 were at Corcoran State Prison, the nearby Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and Avenal State Prison. Between 2000 and 2006, 263 prisoners were diagnosed with the disease in Kings County alone, with one death. Seven of nine prisons in the San Joaquin Valley area have reported incidents of Valley Fever since 2003. Nineteen prisoners at the Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) in Fresno County were transferred following an outbreak of the disease in 2005 that resulted in 166 infections and four deaths (including 37 infections and one death among prison staff). According to a subsequent investigative report released in January 2007, the rate of Valley Fever infections at PVSP was 38 times higher than for the non-incarcerated population in Coalinga, where the prison is located. In May 2007 a resurgence of Valley Fever was projected in Kern County, where 1,084 cases were reported countywide in 2006. “This is going to be a big year,” warned Ronald Talbot, a retired lab director for the Kern County Department of Public Health. Several prisons are located in or near Kern County, including the North Kern State Prison and Wasco State Prison. There were approximately 700 new cases of Valley Fever diagnosed among California prisoners in 2006 according to Richard Hector, Project Director of the Valley Fever Vaccine Project. No explanation has been advanced to explain the prevalence of Valley Fever within state prisons. Additional information about this disease, including vaccine research, is available at www.valleyfever.com.