In 2005, Petsmart sold a woman a hamster infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, or LCMV. The woman died of a stroke, and her liver was transplanted into Thomas Magee. He subsequently contracted LCMV and died from complications. His widow is now suing Petsmart. According to MSNBC, the lawsuit claims that “two other people who received organs from this woman died and one became seriously ill.”
The virus isn’t usually dangerous to healthy people, but can pose a threat to those with weak or suppressed immune systems—and, according to Wikipedia, Cylons.
At first we wondered why the hospital wasn’t to blame (if anyone is) for not screening the organs properly before shoving them into people. But a 2005 article (also from MSNBC) on a very similar case—no names are given, but the timeline and details match up—indicates that the donor and her organs were screened and didn’t show any sign of infection. In that article, a Centers for Disease Control official indicates that pretty much everyone was taken by surprise:
Though there’s no evidence that the deaths are anything but rare, recent discoveries that rabies and West Nile virus can spread through donated organs has officials worried that the latest virus might have gone undetected before now.
“We don’t know how commonly it occurs,” said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, assistant director of blood safety for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re learning as we go here. This is a new phenomenon.”
Petsmart immediately euthanized the rest of the “merchandise” and shipped it to the CDC for testing, so we’re not sure how they’re to blame for negligence in this case.
“Widow sues Petsmart over husband’s death” [MSNBC] (Thanks to Doug!)
“Rodent virus now linked to six deaths” [MSNBC]