Massachusetts Widow Sues PetSmart After Husband Dies From Rodent Virus Infection

Nancy Magee, a Whitman, Massachusetts woman, is suing pet store chain PetSmart for the death of her husband. Her wrongful lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, alleges that Thomas Magee and two other people became infected with a rodent virus during their transplant surgeries. All three people had received their organs from the same woman, who is believed to have contracted the virus from her pet hamster, which she had purchased at a PetSmart in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Thomas Magee, 54, underwent a successful liver transplant surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital on April 10, 2005. The hospital delayed his release after he developed high blood pressure and a fever. On May 5, his wife Nancy was notified that he would need another kidney and liver transplant. Thomas died on May 7, 2005.

Later that month, the Rhode Island Health Department announced that Magee, and two other transplant patients-a double lung recipient from Massachusetts and a kidney transplant patient in Rhode Island-had died after becoming infected with the rodent virus.

Magee’s cause of death is listed as lymphocytic choriomeningitis. The virus is found in hamsters, mice, and other rodents. Symptoms are usually not fatal unless the person with the infection already has a compromised immune system.

Humans can contract the virus if they come into contact with the rodent’s saliva, fecal droppings, nesting materials, or urine-especially if the materials come into direct contact with a person’s nose, broken skin, eyes, or mouth. A rodent bite can also transmit the virus. The CDC says that it cannot be transferred between humans-although organ transplantation is now being investigated as a means of getting the virus.

Nancy Magee says that PetSmart was negligent when it failed in its duty to warn customers that hamsters might have the virus, as well as notify them that it could be dangerous for people with weak immune systems.

Nancy Magee is filing her wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of herself and their three children.

PetSmart Sued Over Infected Hamster Blamed in Three Deaths, Boston Herald, April 16, 2008
Suit: husband’s death tied to hamster, Wicked Local Whitman, April 16, 2008

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