With the July 2019 earthquakes strongly in all Kern county residents’ minds, our previous article mentioned the possibility of earthquake-borne Valley Fever. A 1994 news article discussed the consequences for one man after the Northridge earthquake:
A 71-year-old Simi Valley man has died of Valley fever, a respiratory illness that may have been caused by the Northridge earthquake, health officials said.
Eugene Walter Cole, a retired maintenance worker, was diagnosed in February with the disease, which is contracted by breathing airborne spores that grow in the soil. He died March 2 in a North Hollywood hospital.
Health officials have speculated that the Jan. 17 earthquake kicked up fungus-laden dust that has infected residents in the San Fernando Valley and eastern half of Ventura County.
Infection rates suddenly spiked two weeks after the 1994 quake. Will something similar occur with 2019’s earthquakes? Eugene Cole’s tragic story may be a harbinger of things to come:
Cole’s wife, Hazel, said her husband had a high fever and flu-like symptoms when he went to the emergency room Feb. 10. He was sent home after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Two days later, he returned to the hospital with a 103.6-degree fever and was admitted.
“When he left, he just said, ‘See you tonight or in a couple of days.’ That’s how sure he was that it wasn’t serious,” Hazel Cole said.
He weakened quickly, however, in the hospital and died March 2.
“It just took over,” said Cole’s stepson, Raymond Dempsey. “The doctors tried everything they could to stop it. But it just spread so fast. Like wildfire. We knew it was just a matter of time.”
Dempsey, who also lives in Simi Valley, said family members immediately suspected the earthquake was to blame for Cole’s illness.
“Every time the ground shook, you could see the dust rising from the hills,” he said. “The grayish, black clouds were everywhere.”