A 25-year-old researcher at S.F.'s VA hospital died Saturday morning very shortly after showing the first symptoms of a serious meningitis infection, which he likely contracted from working with the bacteria in his lab. The man, who lives on Treasure Island with a girlfriend and roommates, began feeling sick Friday night and went to bed. When he awoke with worse symptoms (generally high fever, stiff neck, headache, vomiting) the next morning, he had his friends take him back to the VA hospital, where he died a short time later.
Though they haven't yet confirmed that the lab worker contracted the disease in the lab, it seems highly likely since he had been working with the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, a strain that causes the same infection he died from. Co-workers say he was fastidious, but something must have gone wrong, or he rubbed his nose with a glove, or something.
It's unclear if anyone, like the man's roommates, were quarantined immediately following the death, though the Chron reports that 60 of his VA coworkers were given antibiotics as a precaution. The disease is treatable by antibiotics if caught early enough, but about 10 to 20 percent of those infected die. According to the CDC, an estimated 75 people died from this strain of meningitis bacteria in 2010 in this country.