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When experts and policymakers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention land in Bakersfield next week, they will be met by many smart, well-meaning individuals hoping for better treatments for valley fever and, ultimately, for a cure.

The study released this week was conducted by the California Department of Public Health and published in the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. According to the report, the number of reported valley fever cases in California increased from 700 in 1998 to more than 5,500 in 2011.

The annual rate of hospitalizations for valley fever, a potentially lethal but often misdiagnosed disease, has doubled over the past 12 years in California, according to a study published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This past June a federal judge ordered the relocation of thousands of prisoners from two prisons in the San Joaquin Valley in California to protect imprisoned men against a small fungus, Coccidioides immitis, that could infiltrate the gated and locked Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons and continue to cause isolated cases of a debilitating illness, valley fever.

A serious fungal disease you can contract simply by breathing a few spores is 1,001 times more common at California’s Pleasant Valley State Prison than the state average. Non-white inmates are particularly vulnerable.

Following a federal court order, the state is moving hundreds of inmates deemed to be at higher risk of developing serious cases of valley fever out of Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons.

Valley fever is hard to diagnose, even harder to treat, and potentially fatal—and the number of cases is rising dramatically.

Medical experts are calling it a silent epidemic. The disease known as Valley Fever is spreading here in California, hitting more people than ever before.

In the Mojave Desert, extreme heat and wind made worse by more intense weather conditions in recent years has helped the spread of a resilient fungus that causes a deadly infection known as Valley Fever. Ray Suarez reports on the role of dust in the dramatic rise of Valley Fever.

U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy visited the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence Thursday.

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