CDC Doctor, Who Said Flu Shot Caused Deadly Outbreak, Missing Feared Dead
Dr. Timothy J. Cunningham missing for 3 weeks after flu shot warning
The family of a missing prominent Atlanta doctor has made an emotional plea for information after Dr. Timothy J. Cunningham has now been missing, without a trace for three weeks.
Dr. Cunningham is the head of a research team with the Center for Disease Control’s Division of Population Health, and made headlines shortly before his disappearance when he claimed that the "catastrophic" flu shot was the cause of this year's deadly influenza epidemic that has killed thousands.
Police and family of the Harvard-educated CDC doctor are now begging to fear the worst since he vanished "without a trace" despite a high-profile search and a $10,000 reward for information about the case.
The parents of the missing doctor have been told four times that a body has been found, yet each time, Tia and Terrell Cunningham have later learned that it isn't their son.
"It takes you to a place that the light is not shining in," Terrell Cunningham said.
"I won't call it a dark place, but they are lows. This is extremely hard."
In January, Dr. Cunningham spoke out claiming that flu vaccines were causing the flu virus to mutate and spread, requesting anonymity but asked that if "something happened" to him, then he wished for his name to be made public.
According to Rolling Out, the respected researcher stated he felt ill during work, so would continue his work from home and left early, but hasn't been heard from since.
This has raised concerns among his family and colleagues as Cunningham previously warned that his disappearance and possible death might occur because he knew a secret about the flu shot.
He allegedly claimed that it was the cause of this year’s deadly outbreak.
In January, Dr. Cunningham allegedly told his colleagues and family his fears about this year’s flu shot.
Some media outlets have reported he was warned by co-workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that if he kept talking and expressing his opinion he could lose his job or "worse."
Despite this warning, Dr. Cunningham continued to express his fears about the influenza virus.
As a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), Cunningham was an expert on contagious epidemics.
He had been deployed to combat Zika and Ebola and holds the rank of a US Navy Commander as a member of the EIS.
He is also a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University, so he is well trained to spot an outbreak.
Several media outlets reported that earlier this year he made a worrying statement about the flu epidemic, saying:
"Some of the patients I’ve administered the flu shot to this year have died, I don’t care who you are, this scares the crap out of me.
"We have seen people dying across the country of the flu, and one thing nearly all of them have in common is they got the flu shot."
Dr. Cunningham's parents spoke to CNN this week as the search for their son Dr. Timothy J. Cunningham, 35, entered the third week after he disappeared without a trace.
A Harvard-educated doctor, Cunningham is a highly regarded epidemiologist at the CDC, having risen through the ranks to become a team leader in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The disappearance has prompted a high-profile police search and a $10,000 reward for any information about the case.
Authorities have said Cunningham disappeared after leaving work early on February 12, complaining of feeling ill.
His worried parents drove down from Maryland, arriving on February 14 only to find his phone, keys, wallet, car, and dog at his house.
He has not been seen or heard from since.
"Everything about this disappearance is unusual," his father said.
His mother added, "we really need him back to complete our circle."
The parents said their sole focus is finding their son, the middle of their three children.
Fliers have begun circulating across Atlanta, showing Cunningham's magnetic smile and urging anyone with information to call 911. Friends say he is smart and caring, a man with a big grin who liked doling out big hugs to match his smile.
Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president, and CEO of Leadership Atlanta said she had recently met with Cunningham because he is taking on one of its highest-level volunteer positions.
"Everything seemed to be going very, very well for him -- and then for him to disappear, it just doesn't add up," she said.
Cunningham worked in epidemiology, trying to understand health differences across demographics.
With more than 16 years of experience in public health, he has co-authored 28 publications on topics ranging from sleep deprivation to pulmonary disease, with a special focus on how health issues affect minorities.
He worked on public health emergencies including Superstorm Sandy, the Ebola outbreak, and the Zika virus.
CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said Cunningham "is a highly respected member of our CDC family. ... Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time."
The parents said they knew that something with their son was amiss on the evening of February 11, after they spoke with him by phone and exchanged a series of text messages.
"We've shared that with the detectives, and we've kept that as a private matter," his father said.
"As a parent, you have indicators when things are just not right with your child, and that was the case," he said.
His mother said she received a worrying text message at 5:21 a.m. on the day he was last seen. "Are you awake?" her son asked.
Her phone was set to silent mode.
"I wish I had that opportunity to answer that text," she said.
When they arrived at their son's house after he went missing, the parents said, they knew that something was wrong because he had left his Tibetan spaniel unattended.
The dog, officially named Mister Bojangles Cunningham but known as Bo, had twice accompanied Cunningham to Harvard where he went for his master's and doctoral degrees.
He loved the dog so much, his parents said, he'd drive the 130 miles to Tuskegee, Alabama, to have the pooch's teeth cleaned.
"I tell you all that to really understand the relationship between Tim and Bo," the father said.
"To work as hard as he has worked -- and to just now disappear -- it's such a challenge for us to understand."
Both parents said they've been sustained by the outpouring of support from strangers and friends alike -- and that their faith has helped them get through these difficult two weeks.
"I often say, 'Lord, you have put me in this position. What would you have me to learn?' " his father said.
"I'm praying for a positive outcome but having difficulty in understanding the lesson."
Terrell Cunningham retired December 31 after years with the Food and Drug Administration. He is also a retired Air Force colonel.
"This was supposed to have been one series of memorable events after another," he said.
"This is not how we planned retirement."
He praised the police department for working with the family.
He understands the reason why the family was notified about the four bodies that were found, but it doesn't make it any easier as a parent to bear such news.
"It is quite agonizing to wait on the news that it's not our son," he said.
"We'd just like to send our sympathies and condolences to those families."
Both parents say they are trying to remain positive by reflecting on their favorite memories together with their son.
Dr. Cunningham is described as about 5 feet 11 inches tall and 230 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information on his location is asked to call 911 or Atlanta’s Adult Missing Persons Unit at 404-546-4235.