Two cybersecurity company employees who attended an annual industry conference last month in San Francisco have tested positive for the coronavirus. At least one is seriously ill with respiratory issues.
One of the workers at Exabeam Inc. is a 45-year-old engineer who began experiencing symptoms when he returned home to Connecticut from California on Feb. 28 after attending the RSA cybersecurity conference, his wife said in an email. His condition deteriorated the following week and he was hospitalized in respiratory distress on March 6, she said. The man was placed into a medically induced coma and is now on a ventilator in “guarded condition.”
The individual is predisposed for pneumonia due to an underlying heart condition, his wife said. Bloomberg is withholding the man’s name to protect his privacy. The second person, who is unidentified, also worked at Exabeam and attended RSA, the Foster City, California-based company said Tuesday in a statement.
“While we cannot confirm whether they contracted COVID-19 prior to, at or after the conference, if you came into contact with our staff, please be vigilant in monitoring yourself for symptoms,” Exabeam said. The company said it instituted a work-at-home policy for its offices in Foster City and Atlanta.
The annual RSA Conference in San Francisco is among the leading cybersecurity events in North America, rivaled only by BlackHat in Las Vegas. The event was held Feb. 24 to Feb. 28 and conference organizers said it drew more than 36,000 participants, including dozens of keynote presentations in auditoriums packed with company executives, government officials and journalists.
Concerns about the novel coronavirus were heightened ahead of this year’s conference. Hand-sanitizer dispensers were placed prominently throughout RSA venues and many exhibitors opted to bump elbows instead of shake hands. Many privately expressed surprise the event wasn’t canceled.
The conference said 14 sponsors and exhibitors withdrew in advance and several companies also pulled out of the gathering, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.
Included in RSA’s daily emails to attendees during the conference were reminders that organizers were closely monitoring the virus situation. RSA also advised conference goers to follow World Health Organization guidelines to protect themselves from infection.
RSA issued a statement confirming the news that two conference attendees had been diagnosed with the virus, but didn’t immediately explain if it would be investigating their interactions.
“Currently, there is not a known direct link or official governing body communicating back to RSA Conference that these individuals had symptoms at Conference or attended during the incubation period,” RSA organizers said in the statement.
A representative of the San Francisco Department of Public Health said she had no information about the cases.
More than 117,000 cases of the illness have been reported worldwide since its origin in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of December. The viral disease has spread to 104 countries and regions and thus far caused 3,978 deaths, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
California, Washington and New York have more than 100 confirmed cases of the disease, the most in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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