Richard Din, 25, a young researcher working for the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center was killed this week after he contracted a rare strain of bacteria while attempting to study it.
The researcher died at the very hospital where he worked just 17 hours after the bacteria entered his body.
Known as Neisseria Meningitidis the blood stream infection could be prevented with the use of preventive antibiotics which have been administered to dozens of health workers amid fears that a safety breach may have allowed the bacteria to escape.
Colleagues of the young researcher tell the San Francisco Chronicle that he was a “smart, fastidious research who paid attention to safety precautions.”
Din was working with the dangerous bacteria in the hopes of creating a vaccine for the disease which kills approximately 75 people in the United States each year.
Neisseria Meningitidis is just one of five major strains of meningitis and septicemia that do not have a cure at this time.
A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells the San Jose Mercury News:
“We’re not certain how this death happened, but hopefully the investigation will turn up some answers to help prevent it from ever happening again.”
An investigation is currently ongoing to determine the cause of the potential outbreak and researchers believe containment steps taken at the time of the incident should have helped contain the bacteria, although they still plan to error on the side of caution until every else in the hospital is cleared.