To the woes of the victims of the Northridge earthquake, add pestilence.
In the month since the Jan. 17 quake shook the San Fernando Valley and much of the rest of the Los Angeles area, at least three dozen people in this part of California have become ill from what doctors say is an unusual outbreak of valley fever.
The flu-like sickness, which can occasionally be fatal, is caused by a fungus that lives in soil and becomes airborne when dust is kicked up -- as was the case during the Northridge quake. People contract the disease by inhaling dust containing the fungus spores; victims experience fever, muscular aches, lethargy, itchy patches of red skin and a hacking, painful cough.
There have been no deaths, but at least 15 people have been hospitalized.
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