Calif. Girl, 17, Dies From 'Usually' Nonfatal Fungus Spores Found in Soil

A 17-year-old Bakersfield girl has lost a two-year battle with valley fever, a usually nonfatal illness caused by fungus spores in the soil.

Jacalynn Hernandez died Friday at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.

The teen began suffering headaches and vomiting at the end of her freshman year. She was hospitalized after a lesion developed on her nose and her weight dropped from 180 to 96 pounds.

The fungus attacked her internal organs, skin, bones, brain and blood. She also contracted pancreatitis and meningitis.

Valley fever is found in the San Joaquin Valley and other Western states. Only 1 percent of people who contract it suffer serious illness.

The fungus that causes valley fever lives in the soil and releases its spores into the air. Outbreaks occur during weather changes, dust storms and earthquakes, all of which increase the amount of valley fever spores dispersed into the air, according to the Web site