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CDC releases report about scientist working with plague virus who died within hours

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: plague, virus, health news

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(NaturalNews) The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report recently that highlights the events surrounding the sudden death of Malcolm Casadaban, a 60-year-old genetics and cell biology professor from the University of Chicago (UC) who died just a few hours after contracting the plague from his work with the virus. The event, which occurred in September 2009, represents the first time in 50 years that a scientist was made ill by the plague, and certainly the first time one died from it.

"The first question was: Do we think this is real," said Ken Alexander, one of Casadaban's colleagues, to a Bloomberg reporter concerning he and his colleagues' initial reaction to the incident. "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."

The strain of plague that Casadaban had been working with was weakened, and was thus not considered a serious threat to public health. And the CDC report states that because Casadaban had worked at UC for over 30 years, he was most likely following proper safety protocol in handling the virus and that improper handling was not the cause.

The eventual conclusion reached through a subsequent investigation states that Casadaban suffered from a medical condition called hemochromatosis, which made him more susceptible to death from the plague than others are. The condition, which leads to an excessive buildup of iron within the body, provides Yersinia pestis, the plague bacteria, with the iron it needs to thrive and take over.

Ironically, Casadaban is said to have been studying precisely how the plague virus infects a person, during the time when he contracted it himself. According to reports, over 2,000 people worldwide are infected with the plague every year.

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