A judge in San Francisco is hearing arguments from the lawyers of two California Prison inmates that the existence of mold in a San Joaquin Valley facility warrants the immediate removal of prisoners from the site.

The fungus present at the prison causes a disease known as valley fever, and has reportedly caused the deaths of 18 inmates in 2012 of disease-related complications. The prisoners’ representation argues that more deaths will follow if the State continues to wait before moving inmates out of the facility.

State officials are arguing that they should wait to move prisoners until studies being conducted by two national agencies could be completed. However, this argument has been rejected by Warren George of the Prison Law Office.

So far, dozens of deaths and many more hospitalizations have been blamed on the fungus in recent years at both Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons.

About half of those infected by the fungus produce no symptoms whatsoever, while the other half are inflicted with mild to severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, the infection spreads from the lungs to the eyes, brain and skin.

Infection is known to come from contact with soil in the region, while human to human infection is not known to be possible.

So far, state officials are worried about the possible cost of moving all of the inmates and making proper renovations to the property as estimates are in the $750,000 range.

Also, Governor Brown’s office notes that moving the prisoners is not practical in the face of another federal mandate to reduce overcrowding in the California prison system.