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Renowned Infectious Disease Expert Is Felled by COVID

Dr. Rajendra Kapila, 81, had traveled to India to care for family before his death
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2021 11:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – COVID-19 has claimed an infectious disease expert who put his brilliant mind to work on the coronavirus itself. Dr. Rajendra Kapila, a professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society, tested positive for COVID-19 in India on April 8 before dying April 28, reports the Hindustan Times. Ex-wife Dr. Bina Kapila tells WABC that the 81-year-old travelled to India in March to care for family—a risky move considering he was 81 and had diabetes and heart problems. However, his wife, Dr. Deepti Saxena-Kapila, tells the Times that she and her husband received the Pfizer vaccine before traveling, with the intent to stay a short time near Delhi, where he was hospitalized. "It is ironic that … he contracted it here [in India]," she adds, noting she's been "working at a COVID-19 lab in New Jersey" for the last year.

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"When coronavirus outbreak began, he devoted his time in its research," Dr. Ruby Bansal, an HIV specialist in India, tells the Times. "His studies in the field of infectious diseases, be it HIV or fungi or even coronavirus, was par excellence." Dr. Marc Klapholz, chair of Rutgers' department of medicine, says Kapila was "sought out for his legendary knowledge ... in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases." He was at the forefront of AIDS research in the 1980s after serving as assistant chief of medicine for the US Army in Okinawa, Japan, during the Vietnam War. He'd begun his career in the US at Martland Hospital in Newark. Bina Kapila says her ex was "so brilliant," even as a medical student at the University of Delhi, that his professors would defer to him. (India set a global record for cases again on Friday.)

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