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‘Rare bacteria appears to have killed SF researcher

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POSTED May 3, 2012 1:24 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Health officials were trying to determine how a rare strain of bacteria infected and may have led to the death of a researcher at a Veteran’s Affairs infectious diseases lab in San Francisco.

The 25-year-old man, who has not been named, died Saturday morning shortly after asking friends to take him to a hospital, the San Jose Mercury News reported  Wednesday.

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman Peter Melton told the newspaper that the man had been handling a bacteria linked to bloodstream infections at the VA Hospital’s Northern California Institute for Research and Education.

Cal-OSHA was investigating the death and trying to determine if the lab followed safety protocol.

The chief of the VA Hospital’s infectious diseases division, Harry Lampiris, said workers at the facility are expected to wear gloves, gowns and do their work behind a protective “safety cabinet,” or hood, while isolating the bacteria, said

“His co-workers felt he was highly competent and that he was adequately supervised to do the level of work,” Lampiris said.

The researcher was working with others in the lab on developing a vaccine for bacteria that causes septicemia and meningitis, officials said.

Septicemia is an inflammation of the bloodstream that causes bleeding into the skin and organs and is believed to be the cause of the man’s death. It can be spread by sneezing, coughing or kissing.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Department of Public Health was trying to locate everyone who had close contact with the researcher during the time he was infected, said spokeswoman Eileen Shields.

Friends and people who worked with man, as well as about 60 health workers involved in his treatment, were being given antibiotics, Shields said.

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