Expat may have been victim of deadly pneumonia

After taking a brief trip to Panamá, an American citizen living in Costa Rica returned to San José and died a week later under what his good friend is calling mysterious circumstances, possibly due to a deadly form of pneumonia found in the neighboring country.

The U.S. Citizen, William Lee Camerer, 68, died Oct. 28 in Hospital Calderón Guardia and his cremated remains were shipped back to the United States Friday. According to his friend and landlord, Benjamin Over, Camerer’s autopsy report listed three causes of death including lung cancer, septic shock and pneumonia.

After watching Camerer fall deathly ill inside of a few weeks, Over said he believes his friend contracted the deadly form of pneumonia, called Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase, from a Panamanian hospital in David. Ten cases of the disease have been reported by Panamanian press in the regional Rafael Hernández Hospital there, but it is unclear if Camerer was receiving treatment in that specific location.

A spokesperson for the Ministerio de Salud did not respond to whether Camerer was tested for the deadly bacteria. Previously, a ministry spokesperson said no case had been reported in Costa Rica as of Oct. 28.
Over said Camerer left for Panamá from San José for what was supposed to be a three-week stay but returned only a week later.

He was barely able to get out of the taxi that brought him to his residence, Over said.

“When he come back he couldn’t function,” Over said. “I had to help him out of the taxi and he said ‘I think I’m dying.’ He was coughing up blood when I called the ambulance.”

Over said Camerer was placed in the quarantine at the hospital and was dead a week later. Over said his friend had been in poor health suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes breathing difficult. But he said he was surprised at the rate in which the man fell deathly ill.

Individuals with a compromised immune system and those with lung ailments are more prone to pneumonia. Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase has a fatality rate of over 50 percent. The bacteria is considered to be resistent to certain antibiotics.

“My personal opinion is he picked up pneumonia in the clinic or hospital where he went,” Over said.

“Within one week he was totally different health-wise. Lung cancer will kill you, but you won’t deteriorate to that level in one week,” he added.

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