Judge considers effect of fungus on Calif. inmates

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An attorney representing inmates at two Northern California prisons has told a federal judge that prisoners vulnerable to a potentially deadly airborne fungus should be moved from the facilities immediately.

Warren George with the Prison Law Office made the argument during a hearing on Monday before U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson. Henderson did not immediately issue a ruling.

Nearly three-dozen inmate deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations at Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons have been blamed on the fungus that causes an illness known as Valley Fever.

Walter Schneider, an attorney representing the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told Henderson that the court should not order the transfer before federal agencies complete a study of Valley Fever at the prisons.

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