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Kern County

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The California legislature approved a bill Wednesday that would require the state public health department to develop public outreach programs for valley fever, an insidious respiratory disease endemic to Kern County. It next heads to the governor.
Picture of Harold Pierce
So much of Luton’s childhood and adolescence seemed normal to her at the time. Her father mishandling her mother. Her brother coming after her with a metal poker. Her boyfriend with the meth addiction. All normal. It’s a wonder how she didn’t become a statistic herself.
Picture of Harold Pierce
State senators will vote this week on a bill that would enhance valley fever reporting guidelines and mandate public outreach. The aim: to raise public awareness of valley fever, an insidious respiratory disease endemic to the southwestern United States.
Picture of Kerry Klein
This reporting was undertaken as part of a project with the USC Center for Health Journalism’s California Fellowship. ...
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Experts in social behavior and public health weigh in on raising the public's valley fever awareness: create a simple, memorable message, turn that message into a social movement, and reach out regularly to find out if awareness has increased.
Picture of Harold Pierce
In some of Kern County’s poorest, majority-white communities, people are dying four to 17 years before those in other parts of Bakersfield, Calif. Life expectancies are on par with less-developed countries like Iraq and Kazakhstan.
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Seven-year-old Reba Dimeglio remembers her mother defying evacuation orders to protect her house, armed with nothing more than a green garden hose in her fight to save their home, outlined in an orange glow.
Picture of Mackenzie Mays
Graciela Pacheco's teachers never taught her about sex. She learned most of what she knows from her next-door neighbor — a 15-year-old boy she met when she was 12 — who would become the father of her child.
Picture of Kellie  Schmitt
“What you’re hearing is that the pain killer problem has turned into a heroin problem,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny said. “That makes for a good story, but that isn’t really what’s going on.”
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Valley fever killed six Kern County residents in 2016 and infected 1,905 others, a 62 percent surge over the number infected the year prior. Officials are launching a new billboard campaign to raise awareness of the risks.

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