The 25-year old lab worker who died on Saturday from a bacterial infection has been identified as Treasure Island resident Richard Din. Din died of a form of bacterial meningitis that he likely caught while working in a San Francisco VA lab.
According to the VA, Din was working with Neisseria meningitidis serotype B, a particularly virulent strain of bacteria known to cause meningitis and blood infections. Unlike other strains of Neisseria meningitidis, serotype B does not respond to existing vaccines.
CDC guidelines state that lab workers working with any serotype of Neisseria meningitidis should be vaccinated. Other VA researchers were working with serotypes that do respond to vaccines.
Lampiris said the VA hasn't determined whether any of the lab workers had received the vaccine, or even knew it was recommended. "I would say that people in the lab had not received information that there was a routine recommendation for vaccination," he said.
Analysts at the CDC are working with samples from the lab as well as from the victim to confirm that Din's death did, indeed, stem from workplace exposure.
It is possible to catch meningococcal disease – the form of meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitides – outside of a lab. But laboratory-acquired cases have a much higher fatality rate than cases in the general population. According to the CDC, half of lab workers who are infected with meningococcal disease generally die from it, compared to a 12-15 percent fatality rate in the general population.