Richard Din, 25, died last Saturday at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center where he had been conducting research on a deadly bacteria, said the city medical examiner’s office Thursday.
Din died just 17 hours after coming down with a blood stream infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis, a rare strain of bacteria that can cause blood and meningitis infections.
Din had spent the past six month conducting research at the SF VA Hospital on behalf of the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing veterans’ health research. Din had been handling the deadly bacterium for several weeks before his death. He lived on Treasure Island.
The cause of Din’s death remains under investigation though the examiner’s office considers it highly unlikely that he contracted the illness from a source outside of work. In the US the bacterium has been linked to about 75 deaths a year, but is a common cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A report about Din’s death was received Sunday, said Peter Melton, a spokesman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration which is investigating the cause of death. Investigators will interview Din’s co-workers, retrace his steps and learn more about how the material was stored and handled. The agency has up to six months to complete its investigation.
Co-workers described Din as “fastidious”. No evidence has yet been detected of spills or equipment failure, said an official from the VA hospital. Din’s co-workers and close contacts have been treated with preventive antibiotics.
A town hall meeting was held Monday at the VA hospital to inform employees and to offer grief-counseling services, said Dr. Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious disease at the hospital. The meeting was attended by Din’s parents, who traveled from outside the San Francisco area.