Health crisis hits drought-stricken Porterville

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A South Valley city already crippled by the drought is now dealing with a health crisis. (KFSN)

A South Valley city already crippled by the drought is now dealing with a health crisis. From respiratory diseases to mental health issues, the drought is taking a toll on the few thousand residents of Porterville. And one doctor says it's only going to get worse.

In East Porterville, cracked river beds are a sign of the times. Almost half of the people in the city don't have running water. Yolanda Serrato is one of them. "You can't do anything without water. Anything," she said.

Her family relies on a tank. They get water donated twice a month. "Like I said, we have to try to save as much water as we can," said Serrato. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Serrato has cancer. She's been battling the disease since 2011. "They don't want me to be in the sun. They don't want me around any dust, any dirt," she said.

Which is hard when you look at the land in the parched city. She's trapped in her own home and isn't strong enough to work.

Dr. Jaisimaran Sidhu is the medical director at a rural clinic. She said 30 percent of their clients seek help for drought-related medical issues, including depression. "What we see when they come in is they're stressed, they're more depressed, they're not being able to sleep, and then that's affecting their diabetes, their hypertension, their day-to-day life," said Dr. Sidhu.

Dusty and desert-like conditions, doctors say, are causing respiratory issues, and lack of work is making tough choices even tougher.

"Am I going to put food on the table or am I going to pay for my medications? They put food on the table every time," said Dr. Sidhu.

The clinic is urging preventative health care for their patients. For Serrato, she said all she can do is fight cancer and let her husband deal with the drought. Now, it's a matter of living tank to tank and hoping for the times to change.

Dr. Sidhu said preventative measures include eating healthy, taking proper medication and having good hygiene.
Related Topics:
healthdroughtbeat the droughtwaterwater conservationhealth carehealth watchtulare countyPorterville
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