San Francisco, CA – It’s almost like the plot of a horror movie. A 25-year-old infectious disease worker left work Friday only to die the next day after being infected with the contagious bacteria he had been working with.
The man worked at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center where, over the last few months, he had been working with a rare Neisseria meningitidis bacterial strain that causes septicemia and meningitis — both of which are nasty ways to go if left untreated.
Meningitis can lead to fever, headache, neck stiffness, coma and then death. By comparison, you would pray for this over septicemia, which is what investigators believe killed the man. Septicimia is inflammation of the bloodstream that causes bleeding into the skin and organs. A person unlucky enough to be afflicted with this blood poisoning can die very quickly from septic shock or ARDS.
Fellow employees described the man as competent and fully capable of handling the bacteria he was working with and the chief of the VA Hospital’s infectious diseases division said if the man had been working with the bacteria, he would have been wearing protective clothing from behind a protective safety cabinet or hood.
But something went wrong on Friday because when the man left work that afternoon he was infected. He wasn’t demonstrating symptoms until a couple hours later when he told his girlfriend he felt sick with a headache, fever and chills. The next morning his symptoms were worse, and now he had a rash. He asked to be taken to the hospital, but fell unconscious in the car. He had no pulse on arrival and died shortly after.
Because this bacteria can be spread by sneezing, coughing or kissing, health officials fear the man’s friends and fellow researchers may have been infected with the bacteria as well. They are all being monitored and were given antibiotics.
The CDC has joined the investigation by the state and local officials in order to help find out how this may have happened in hopes of preventing it from ever happening again.
It’s like the beginning of OUTBREAK and CONTAGION. Only one day some mutated strain of bacteria is gonna get carried out of some secret lab and quickly turn the entire population into something like this. Personally, I’m ready for it — having prepared for such an event — but the rest of you? Stay off my farm unless you are hot and prepared to breed.