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Valley Fever survivor speaks out

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TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Valley Fever was recently discovered in the Tri-Cities. It's a sickness that hadn't been found in Washington before, and a survivor of the illness is worried the message of mild symptoms doesn't fall in line with the kind of trouble she's experience.

Sharon Filip came back from a trip to Arizona with an unexpected stowaway... fungal spores resulting in Valley Fever.

"Every bone in my body hurt, every muscle, even the tendons, my nervous system was jangled, I just could barely survive without coughing," said Sharon.

The sickness is common in the southwest, but not here. Sharon and her doctors didn't immediately know what was wrong. The symptoms mimic pneumonia.

"I don't know what's happening to me, I feel like I'm dying, what is going on?"

At one point, she really thought she was at the end.

"Dear God, I said, I don't want to die, I just want this pain to stop."

When she finally received the Valley Fever diagnosis, she was even more terrified.

"It's incurable, it's deadly, and it could be permanently debilitating."

Sharon has chronic lung problems, glaucoma, and a desire to make others aware of the risks.

Valley Fever was recently discovered in the Tri-Cities. There are eight patients in recent years who have been diagnosed with it. Health officials say for most people the symptoms are mild. Sharon's family thinks the risk of Valley Fever is understated.

"We could look at the footage of those doctors in HazMat suits telling you 'oh, everything is gonna be fine, while they're covered head to toe. Or we can say, "there's a problem, this is something we need to be on the lookout for, if we catch it early we'll be able to be ahead of this thing," said Sharon's son and author of Valley Fever Epidemic.

She and her son started a website to raise awareness and support of Valley Fever.

"When you have the knowledge behind you, you have something to go forward with," said Sharon.

Right now, the health district's main goal is to raise awareness about the disease in doctors for both people and pets.

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