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It was by a well-known author. Harlan Ellison, perhaps, or maybe one of Bradbury's darker stories? I remember it being a short story in a collection, but searching the Internet has come up empty thus far.

The story starts when a guy enters a bar and starts talking to bartender about how he's being hauled around the country by some MiB-types against his will. Somehow the Feds found that he, and his entire group of friends, were totally free of all diseases and determined that being exposed to him was the same as immunizations to everything. The MiB are trying to surreptitiously expose him to a wide swath of the general public. Barkeep is skeptical in a "sure buddy" kind of way. As he's trying to convince the barkeep, the MiB show up and whisk him away.

Eventually it's discovered he's actually an asymptomatic carrier, not a cure, and whatever he's carrying first kills of all the viruses and such in a host, then starts killing the host itself. All his old friends are now dead or dying, as are masses of people in a trail of all the places they've been. The agents decide to cut and run with one of them saying he was going to get his wife and kids and just disappear into the wilderness.

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    This is exactly why new drugs have to be approved by the FDA, and are not administered to everyone as soon as someone suspects that they could be beneficial.
    – Adamant
    Jun 17, 2021 at 18:52
  • @Adamant You make your bets and you take your chances. Jun 17, 2021 at 19:25
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    Related: "Shaffrey among the Immortals" by Frederick Pohl where a tinkerer eager to make it Big in Science accidentally creates an airborne clostridium botulinum by zapping a can of mushroom with his dentist's X-Ray machine. A serious situation of "lab escape" ensues as people croak in the street. Jun 17, 2021 at 19:31
  • Also reminiscent of To Die In Italbar Jun 17, 2021 at 19:32

1 Answer 1

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"To Walk A City's Street" by Clifford D. Simak (but I'm sure you've found it by now).

This is a brief story written in a spare straightforward style, consisting mostly of dialogue. Ernie Foss is a man of low intelligence, a petty thief who was living hand to mouth in a slum four or five years ago when government researchers realized he has a strange gift--he emits an aura which cures people of illnesses and prevents disease. The government scientists studied him and tried to figure out how his beneficial power, which was absolutely out of the dimwit's control, worked, but their efforts were in vain. So they decided that the thing to do was to drive Ernie around the country, to compel him to walk around in slums all over the United States, helping improve the health of our nation's most vulnerable citizens. This weird health campaign is kept a secret from the press and public.

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    Nice, five years after it was asked! I'm surprised it took that long for a Simak story.
    – Moriarty
    Jun 18, 2021 at 5:35

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