The illness is known as 'valley fever,' and it is reportedly responsible
for three employee deaths at prisons in the San Joaquin Valley since January
2009. Authorities say that the illness has also sickened more than 100
others in the prison population, causing serious concern within prison
facilities. Although the illness is not caused byindustrial accidents, it is prompting serious uproar because it has caused the death of workers
in the course of employment.
Health experts say that the fungus that causes the fever generally resides
in the soil in the surrounding area. In most cases, symptoms are not present,
but two in five victims suffer flu-like symptoms and other types of infections.
Valley fever has been known to lead to blindness, lung failure, serious
abscesses in the skin, and even death. Rates of the fever have increased
six-fold in the past 10 years in California, with more than 5,500 cases
occurring in 2011.
The employees killed in these work-related incidents died while working
at Avenal and Pleasant Valley prisons. The response to the worker death
has been widespread, as a judge has ordered more than 2,500 inmates to
be moved to other prisons. The fever reportedly most often affects those
living on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Certain minority populations
and those with immune disorders are more vulnerable to the potentially
Family members of the workers who have perished because of the fever may
be able to recover workers' compensation in connection with the worker
death. The Centers for Disease Control is still reviewing the outbreak.
Fatal work-related accidents are not always caused by machines or chemical
spills; they can also be related to biological phenomena. Workplaces throughout
California have the responsibility to protect their employees by taking
adequate precautions against known hazards. Employees who have suffered
injury because of workplace negligence deserve workers' compensation benefits.
Source: The Fresno Bee, "Study: Valley fever has killed 3 prison workers, 103 sickened" Don Thompson, Feb. 06, 2014