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Mother warns of Valley Fever after son contracted disease after Thomas Fire

A Ventura mother who lost her home in the Thomas Fire, says her son contracted Valley Fever after the fire broke out in December 2017.

Kat Merrick says her son, Jesse was diagnosed with the disease just weeks after putting out spot fires on their property.

“Quickly after your son gets something like this and almost dies from it and is hospitalized you think nothing in the world is that important,” said Merrick.

Dr. Robert Levin says Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in soil. Fires or earthquakes can disturb the soil and cause the organism to travel.

“That’s why when it’s disturbed and gets into the air and people inhale it you can get an infection in your lungs from valley fever,” said Levin.

In a March 2018 report, the Ventura County Public Health Agency stated there were 152 confirmed cases reported from December 15, 2017, through January 2018.

The report states it’s a more than 500 percent increase from January 2017.

Levin says it’s not yet clear that the spike of cases can be linked to the fire.

“We’re not far enough into the incubation period of Valley Fever where it would be clear,” said Levin.

Nonetheless, with the most recent Woolsey and Hill fires, Merrick wants people to be aware.

“I understand the need to go home and I understand the need to sift and find those mementos,” said Merrick. “But make sure that you are aware and take all of the precautions you possibly can.”

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