A man who went berserk on a city street and bit passers-by before he collapsed and died was suffering from AIDS, police said Wednesday, and they encouraged his victims to call health authorities. AIDS experts say there are no known instances of the disease being transmitted by biting, but police said they were issuing the appeal as a precautionary measure.
The incident occurred Feb. 7 when Jean Marc Rosius, 28, who gave his address as a homeless shelter, began accosting passers-by, Miami police spokesman Ray Lang said.
"We got a call that there was a violent person attacking people on the street for no apparent reason," Lang said.
At least four people were bitten seriously enough to be hospitalized, including some left with only flaps of skin hanging off arms and faces. Arresting officer Orestes Guas was also bitten and treated, Lang said.
"After Mr. Rosius was subdued, he had breathing difficulties and was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he died," Lang said.
An autopsy found that Rosius, who had a history of mental problems, had used cocaine and was suffering from AIDS.
"At this point, what we're doing is recommending that anyone who had any contact with Mr. Rosius _ if they were bitten or scratched or had any relationship at all," contact their local AIDS hot line, he said.
In addition to the four people hospitalized, three others initially reported they were bitten, but authorities think they might be illegal aliens who are reluctant to come forward.
One of those bitten and hospitalized was Guillermo Herrada, 54.
"This is the worst news I've ever had in my life," Herrada said Tuesday after he was told the disease could take years to show up and he must take repeated tests over the next decade. "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Herrada, a low-income retiree, was already down on his luck and living at the Happy Home boardinghouse when he went for a walk at 9:30 p.m. Without uttering a word, Rosius ran up, jumped on him and began biting him in the leg and arms, breaking the skin.
Despite the deadly reputation of AIDS, some experts say there is little reason for the victims to worry.
Constance Wofsy, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, said there are no documented cases of AIDS transmission by a human bite, but it is theoretically possible.