Medic's Death Brings Multistate Health Alert

Miami, Nov 29, 2003 — A volunteer medic who treated demonstrators during last week's free-trade protests in Miami died Wednesday of bacterial meningitis, touching off a multistate alert for anyone who had close contact with him.

Fellow activists identified the dead medic as 23-year-old Jordan Feder of Monmouth County, N.J.

A graduate of Towson University in Baltimore, Feder arrived in Miami on Nov. 18 with members of the Anti-Racist Action Network, his friend Patrick McKale said.

The men were in the same "affinity group" — activists who travel together and keep an eye out for one another during protests.

"He was the medic for our affinity group," said McKale, 20, who suffered broken skin and bruises from rubber bullets fired by police.

Feder worked with injured protesters in the streets around downtown during the brief skirmishes with police Nov. 20, then worked at the decontamination area set up at the protesters' Convergence Center at North Miami Avenue and 23rd Street on Friday and Saturday, treating those who had been pepper-sprayed by police.

Thousands of people converged in Miami to protest the talks on a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas in mostly peaceful demonstrations.

Feder became noticeably ill Saturday during the van trip home, McKale said. On Monday, they stopped at a Raleigh, N.C., hospital, and Feder was admitted. He died two days later, said Dr. Jean-Marie Maillard, a North Carolina state epidemiologist.

"He was exposed probably sometime within the 10 days prior to Sunday," Maillard said. "Because that period includes not only the time he was in Miami but also even before he left his residence in New Jersey, we can't rule out anything."


Florida Department of Health officials, working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a statewide alert Wednesday for doctors to look for patients with symptoms of the disease: high fever, headache, stiff neck and sometimes nausea and vomiting.

Feder suffered from the most deadly form of bacterial meningitis: Neisseria meningitis, which can kill a relatively healthy person within days because the bacteria get into the bloodstream and shut several organs down.

The disease is spread only through close, prolonged contact with an infected person, such as exposure to coughing and sneezing at close range.

"It's spread by respiratory droplets, but you have to have pretty close contact with somebody," said Carol Schriber, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Division of Public Health. "If you are just in the same room with them, sharing the same space, no, but you start sharing your can of Coke or kissing each other, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, then yes, you could be exposed."


Health officials are trying to identify anyone who might have come into contact with the medic so they can offer antibiotics as a preventive measure.

McKale said doctors have started him on the antibiotic Cipro.

"This is the only case that we know of, and all of the close contacts of this person have been identified and given antibiotics to prevent development of that disease in them," Schriber said.

The CDC, working with health officials in Florida and other states, is advising anyone who was treated by, or had contact with, Feder to see a doctor.

Feder became active in social causes as a teenager and soon began volunteering as a medic.

"Jordan was such a naturally compassionate person," McKale said. He said Feder is survived by his parents and a brother.


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