"Picture a small rural hospital in northern Minnesota. A man walks into the emergency room late in the afternoon complaining of flu-like symptoms. He’s admitted and at first seems stable, but rapidly deteriorates. As he is transported by helicopter to a larger hospital for advanced treatment, his condition plummets en route and survival seems increasingly unlikely. The backstory: The man was three weeks into a road trip and could have passed this fast-acting, apparently lethal bug on to any number of people. Sounds like the script pitch for Contagion 2, right? Mystery illness in Minnesota, I can see it now.*
But while it sounds like a script pitch, this actually happened in the fall of 2011, with Bacillus anthracis, as the causative agent of anthrax, as the starring villain. There was one very important change to the storyline though. Thanks to the efforts of the laboratorians at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Health Laboratory Response Network (LRN) staff, the mystery bug was identified in time to provide treatment, and the patient is alive and well today. Maureen Sullivan of the Minnesota Public Health Laboratory told us the story of the legwork that went in on the laboratory side, and it would definitely make for a pretty good movie!"
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