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Sick model regrets working Playboy event

February 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A mysterious infection strikes dozens of visitors to the famous Playboy Mansion. L.A. County health investigators want to know if the mansion is the source. Those who became ill attended a conference in Southern California. One of its parties was held at the Playboy Mansion. Health officials still have not pinpointed the source of the respiratory infection.

It's not unusual for a party at the Playboy Mansion to be called "breathtaking." But it is unusual when it's meant literally.

"It took all my energy just to take a shower," said lingerie model Rebecca Rangel. "By the time I was done, I was out of breath."

Rangel was at the Playboy Mansion working as a lingerie model at a February 3 fundraiser. Two days later she was racked with pain and fever. Three days later her doctor sent her to the hospital.

"The entire time of being sick, I just had a really bad headache, a fever between 102 to 103, coughing, body aches and pains," said Rangel. "Like a week I was in bed straight."

Rangel wasn't alone. In all, some 170 people who attended the event got sick. Several were diagnosed with Pontiac Fever, a mild form of Legionnaires' disease. Its symptoms are similar to pneumonia, with high fever, chills and a cough. Experts say the condition usually clears up on its own within two to five days.

The Los Angeles County Health Department is investigating the outbreak, but officials there say they don't have enough information yet to determine a cause.

Some of the sickened guests are wondering if a fog machine at the party could have played a part.

Because it was cold that night, Rangel says most of the partygoers were concentrated in a large tent.

"It did have fog machines, it had ventilation, there was one part that was blowing in a lot of warm air and I stood right next to it, because I was like, 'Oh, it's warm,'" said Rangel.

Now a week and a half later, with a fistful of medical bills, Rangel says she's sorry she agreed to work the Playboy event. The 31-year-old had hopes it would allow her to network with business leaders, but she ended up spending more time with doctors.

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