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Deadly infection claims San Francisco VA lab worker

State and federal health officials are investigating how a rare and virulent bacteria strain appears to have killed a young researcher at a VA Hospital's infectious diseases lab in San Francisco, setting off alarms that the man's friends and fellow researchers also may have been exposed.

The 25-year-old laboratory researcher at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center died Saturday morning shortly after asking friends to take him to the hospital. For the week and months before his death, he had been handling a bacteria linked to deadly bloodstream infections at the VA Hospital's Northern California Institute for Research and Education, said Peter Melton, a spokesman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The man, whose name has not been released, was working with fellow researchers to develop a vaccine for a bacterial strain that causes septicemia and meningitis. Hours after he left work, however, the germ that he was studying took his own life.

"He left the lab around 5 p.m. (Friday)," said Harry Lampiris, chief of the VA Hospital's infectious diseases division. "He had no symptoms at all."

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