CDC Defends Quarantine of TB Patient

The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 4, 2007; 5:06 AM

DENVER -- Federal health officials stand by their quarantine of an Atlanta lawyer they believed had a dangerous form of tuberculosis, even though new tests show he has a less severe form of the disease.

"The public health actions that CDC took in this case, and are continuing to take, are sound and appropriate," said Dr. Mitchell Cohen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lawyer, Andrew Speaker, said the CDC's actions were anything but appropriate when he became the center of an international health scare in May, when officials said he had traveled to Europe and back with an extremely drug-resistant form of TB.

The announcement Tuesday from Speaker's doctors raised immediate questions about the accuracy of the diagnosis by U.S. government health officials who had made Speaker the subject of the first federal quarantine order since 1963.

Cohen, speaking at a news conference here, said the public health response should be the same to both forms of drug-resistant TB.

Speaker said in a statement that the new diagnosis relieved him.

"The truth is that my condition is just the same as it was back in early May, long before there was a huge health scare, and back when I was allowed to carry on my daily life and was told I was not a threat to anyone," said Speaker, who was first told two weeks ago that he didn't have extensively drug resistant TB, or XDR-TB, as testing continued.

He also gave a harsh critique of the government's handling of the case: "In the future, I hope they realize the terribly chilling effect they can have when they come after someone and their family on a personal level. They can in a few days destroy an entire family's reputation, ability to make a living and good name."

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper Tuesday night, he said he believed the CDC needed to apologize.

"I think they owe apologies to the people that they scared," he said.

He continued: "They created a huge international panic. They scared, you know, millions of people around the world."

The news that he has a more treatable form of TB means he may avoid surgery and has a much better chance for a cure.

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