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Tuberculosis Patient Treated in Denver

Treatment May Take Months; Patient Asks Forgiveness From His Fellow Fliers
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WebMD Health News

June 1, 2007 -- Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta man at the center of a media storm after traveling overseas with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR), is being treated for his tuberculosis at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

XDR TB is an infectious disease spread from person to person through the air. Unlike most tuberculosis cases, XDR TB resists the first and second preferred drug treatments.

In a news conference, Gwen Huitt, MD, who is one of the doctors treating Speaker, said Speaker is "doing very well," continues to show no obvious symptoms of tuberculosis, is starting to take new medications, and is even using an exercise bike in his isolation room.

Huitt reported "no surprises" in Speaker's chest X-rays and CT scans taken last night and that his tuberculosis continues to show a low likelihood of spreading easily to other people.

In a separate CDC news conference, CDC Director Julie Gerberding said that while the federal isolation order is still in place for Speaker, she "wouldn't be surprised" if that order is lifted "at some point in the future."

Patient's Fellow Travelers

Gerberding also updated reporters on efforts to reach people on Speaker's recent transatlantic flights.

Speaker, who is a 31-year-old lawyer, and his bride recently flew from Atlanta to Paris and from Prague to Montreal as part of their wedding and honeymoon.

Those flights are:

  • Air France Flight 385: departed Atlanta on May 12, arriving in Paris on May 13
  • Czech Air Flight 0104: departed Prague, Czech Republic, arriving in Montreal on May 24

Passengers likely to be at highest risk for tuberculosis transmission during those flights were sitting in Speaker's row and in the two rows in front or behind him, notes Gerberding.

Gerberding says the CDC has been in touch with 74 U.S. citizens and residents on the Air France flight, including all 26 passengers who were believed to be sitting in the high-risk rows around Speaker's seat.

Canadian authorities have identified the 28 passengers seated in the high-risk rows around Speaker on the Czech air 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. For this reason, the CDC recommends that passengers get follow-up tests in about two months, which will indicate whether or not any of those travelers got tuberculosis on those flights.

Passengers on those flights may call the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO for information on tuberculosis testing.

The bacterium that causes tuberculosis usually doesn't make people sick. In most cases, the bacterium stays inactive. But when it becomes active, it usually causes symptoms including fever, night sweats, cough, appetite loss, weight loss, bloody phlegm, and loss of energy.

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