NBC 5 Investigates has confirmed that Chicago police, fire and health department officials were all put on high alert this week, after suspicions that a former University of Chicago research associate might have died from the ebola virus.
The scare turns out to have been a false alarm, but the circumstances surrounding the man’s death are still under investigation.
Dr. Eric Bertolino was found dead in his apartment in the 5500 block of South Dorchester Feb. 13. An employee of his building reportedly found items in Bertolino’s refrigerator, which through their labeling caused that person to believe that they were samples of ebola, a deadly and highly contagious virus.
A source close to the investigation told NBC 5 that after the reports came in to authorities, they took a couple of days to formulate a plan to enter Bertolino’s apartment, and when that was done on Monday it was done by representatives of the Centers for Disease Control, with the assistance of Chicago Fire Department in full hazmat gear.
“Obviously out of an abundance of caution, first responders did go in and they were very cautious,” said one source, who told NBC 5 that after further investigation it was determined that the item in question, whose label did start with the letters “ebo…” actually was a different substance entirely.
“The city does not have any suspicion that it was ebola,” that source said.
There is speculation that the “ebo” on the label may have referred to the man’s name, “Eric Bertolino”.
County spokesman Becky Schlikerman said Bertolino’s cause and manner of death are still pending, “But there’s no concern about infectious disease.”
A university spokesman confirmed that Bertolino was employed at the University of Chicago from 1996 to 2011.