Breathing hard from his run, Jason asked, “Were you able to reach Joe?”
Paul, his head bent over his desk revealing his thinning gray hair, was holding a phone to his ear. He looked up and covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “I have him on the phone now. He’s coughing and sounds delirious—babbling in Mandarin or Cantonese.” “I’m teaching the lab this morning and I’m already late. I’ll check in with you after class.”
Paul dismissed Jason with a nod and tried talking to Joe again. “Joe, unlock . . . unlock your door and go to bed. I’m calling an ambulance for you.”
Paul hung up and immediately called the University Hospital. “This is Professor Paul Schmidt on the St. Paul campus. A graduate student from Hong Kong is sick. He was coughing and his breathing sounded labored when I talked to him on the phone just now. He seemed to be delirious. Can I have an ambulance pick him up at his apartment?”
“Hong Kong! This kid is from Hong Kong?”
“Yes. He’s a recent arrival.”
There was a prolonged pause before Paul was given an answer. “I’ll transfer you to an infectious disease specialist.”
Waiting on hold, Paul tried to remember how often Jason and other students had been exposed to Joe. Few were aware of it, but a tourist from Hong Kong had introduced SARS to Canada last year. There’d been a twenty-percent case mortality rate. Paul searched for a bottle of antacids he kept in a desk drawer.
“This is Dr. Hatfield. You have a graduate student from Hong Kong with respiratory signs?” a man asked.
“Yes, and he had diarrhea last night. He flew in from Hong Kong five days ago. I thought—”
“Five days? From Hong Kong?”
“Holy shit! What imbecile cleared his visa?”
“I thought I’d better give you a heads-up on this before you send an ambulance.”
“Thanks. I appreciate the warning.”
Paul heard muffled orders barked. He gave the doctor Joe’s address and told him he would meet him there.
“We’ll bring an extra hazmat suit for you. Don’t even think of getting near him until my people arrive,” the doctor responded.
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