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Update: TB Flier Was Told by CDC That He "Wasn't At Risk"

By paigemom     Jun 1, 2007 in Health
Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta attorney who exposed his fellow plane passengers to a dangerous strain of tuberculosis says he was told he "wasn't a risk."
Speaker told ABC's "Good Morning America" today that his doctors and the Centers for Disease Control knew he had a type of TB that was resistant to front-line drugs, and that they knew this before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon last month.
He said he was advised then that he wasn't contagious or a danger to anyone.
Health officials told him they would "prefer he didn't fly," but he was never ordered not to. Speaker's father is also a lawyer, and he taped the meeting when Speaker's travel plans were discussed.
"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody, or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, we have to tell you that to cover ourself, but he's not a risk."
However, Speaker was already in Europe with his new wife and her young daughter when he learned that tests showed he not only had tuberculosis, but he had an especially dangerous, extensively drug-resistant strain.
"He was told in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back," said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's division of global migration and quarantine.
How Speaker was supposed to return to the US, specifically to a specialized clinic in Denver, is unclear.
"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and that was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."
A disturbing detail in these terrorism-conscious times: even though US officials had put Speaker on a warning list, he was able to catch a flight to Montreal and then drive across the U.S. border on May 24. Unbelievably, a border inspector who checked him disregarded a computer warning to stop Speaker.
The unidentified inspector later said the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely "discretionary."
Ironically, Speaker is a personal-injury lawyer.
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