SACRAMENTO, June 25 (UPI) -- A federal judge ordered California to move inmates at risk of contracting valley fever from two prisons verified as hosting the deadly fungus.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson's order Monday gives state officials seven days to begin the transfers from Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons and 90 days to complete them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Valley fever is caused by a soil-born fungus often found in arid regions of California's Central Valley, the Times said. While most contracting the illness experience mild flu-like symptoms, in some individuals, particularly blacks, valley fever can spread and ravage the body.
Henderson's order criticized the state's handling of valley fever outbreaks in its prisons. Thirty-six prisoners with the fever died over the last six years.
The judge's order says California officials "clearly demonstrated their unwillingness to respond adequately to the healthcare needs of California's inmate population."
Inmates who already have valley fever are exempted from the transfer order.
State officials had no immediate projection of how many inmates could be moved, but an earlier broader order from the prison system's medical receiver had been estimated to cover about 3,200 prisoners, the newspaper said.
The state already is moving 600 medically high-risk inmates out of the two prisons, officials said.