Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scientist killed by Bubonic Plague - that was supposedly "harmlmess"

University of Chicago infectious disease specialist Ken Alexander still remembers the shock he felt almost 18 months ago when his pager shook with the message that a colleague had died from the plague.

A half-hour later, Alexander was sitting at a table in the dean’s office with researchers, lawyers, administrators and campus security officers, he recalled in an interview. The stricken colleague, Malcolm Casadaban, a 60-year-old genetics and cell biology professor, had checked into a hospital five days earlier and died within hours. Lab results were positive for the plague, and the university’s “biosafety fire alarm” had been triggered, Alexander said.

“The first question was: Do we think this is real,” Alexander, chief of infectious diseases at the university’s pediatrics department, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The answer was yes. So the onus was upon us to do two things; to notify the health infrastructure and act as if this were a worst-case scenario.” (read more)