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Only On CBS2: Expert Sheds Light On Valley Fever After It Kills Antelope Valley Teen

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(credit: CBS) Serene Branson
Serene is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and the recipient of...
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ANTELOPE VALLEY (CBSLA.com) — A 15-year-old girl was brought to Antelope Valley Hospital August 12 with a fever, cough and aches in her arms and legs.

Bre Hughes was tested for cancer, lupus and tuberculosis, but the results all came back negative.

Four hospitals and two weeks later, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles diagnosed the teen with Valley Fever, but it was too late.

Hughes passed away August 31.

Her family wants to know why several hospitals didn’t immediately recognize what she had as Valley Fever.

“If they would have found out sooner would she still be here? That’s my question, that’s what I want to know…I didn’t expect to lose my sister,” Hughes’ sister, Kia, told CBS2’s Serene Branson.

The fungal infection can masquerade as different kinds of diseases before doctors recognize it as Valley Fever.

Los Angeles County Public Health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said Southland doctors shouldn’t leave out Valley Fever when diagnosing patients with Bre’s symptoms. The fungal infection is prevalent in arid desert areas like the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys. It’s caused when a mold spore enters the lungs. The spore is often carried by wind near construction work.

In the first six months of 2012, there have been 178 reported cases and five deaths from Valley Fever in LA County. Health officials typically see between 170 and 300 cases a year. Doctors say the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems have the most risk of complications.

Valley Fever is usually not fatal for most patients with healthy immune systems. It turns out Hughes had a rare, undiagnosed blood condition that left her more vulnerable to the infection.

The Hughes family said they aren’t angry and don’t blame the hospitals. They are speaking out about Bre’s death to raise awareness and to encourage more hospitals to test for Valley Fever.

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