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Tuberculosis: 17 Questions and Answers

Confused About Tuberculosis Headlines? Get the Facts

What should passengers on those flights do? continued...

Canadian authorities have identified the 28 passengers seated in the high-risk rows around Speaker on the Czech Airlines flight, says Gerberding.

Those passengers -- and anyone else on those flights -- will be put in touch with local health officials in their city or state for tuberculosis testing. Since tuberculosis grows slowly, any initial tests that show tuberculosis would probably stem from infection before the flights. Follow-up tests two months later would indicate whether or not any of those travelers got tuberculosis on those flights.

"It's hopeful we're not going to see a lot of exposure because he probably wasn't terribly contagious," Hamilton says.

Were those the only flights Speaker took on his honeymoon?

No. Speaker and his wife also took several shorter flights from France to Greece to Rome and to Prague, Czech Republic.

However, the CDC and World Health Organization consider the risk of infection to travelers on flights lasting less than eight hours to be low. Each of those European flights lasted less than eight hours.

A full list of those flights is posted on the CDC's web site.

Is it rare for a TB patient to be put in isolation?

The federal isolation order is rare, "but every state has public health laws," Hamilton says.

Hamilton notes that in North Carolina, where she directs the states TB control program, "most people are happy to follow the advice to stay home [and not travel] until we are sure that you're not infectious."

"But there are some people who don't want to do that, in which case we would issue an isolation order." Most patients comply with isolation orders, but if they don't "we can compel them to go to prison until they are no longer infectious and they finish their TB treatment."

Such cases are very rare, Hamilton notes. "We don't like to do that," she says. "But it's better to do that than to expose a lot of people."

  • Now that you have your TB questions answered, read aWebMD staffer's personal scare with accidental exposure to TB and how her family coped through the crisis. Read more on WebMD's blogs.
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