TB Patient Questions CDC's Actions

The Associated Press
Friday, July 6, 2007; 6:20 PM

ATLANTA -- The globe-trotting tuberculosis patient who sparked an international public health incident in May said Friday he was tricked into a federal quarantine.

Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta attorney, he would have gladly gone into isolation if health officials had asked him to. Instead, he said they asked him to swing by a New York City hospital for testing after his European vacation, then posted armed guards outside his door.

"They tried to trick me when it was unnecessary," Speaker said, said in a telephone interview from a Colorado hospital where he has been under treatment for a month.

Speaker, the first person quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963, disclosed new details about the discussions he had with health officials while in Europe, and about an aborted plan in which he would have driven to Denver for treatment after he returned.

He said he has no current plans to sue health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other government agencies.

"I'm worried about people coming after me," he said in a lengthy interview with The Associated Press.

Speaker became the focus of a CDC investigation _ and an international uproar _ when proceeded in May with a long-planned wedding trip to Europe after health officials said they advised him not to fly.

CDC officials also said a May 22 test result indicated Speaker had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, which is extremely difficult to treat. But Speaker's doctors said this week that subsequent testing has shown only the less-dangerous multidrug-resistant TB.

Speaker said the XDR diagnosis escalated media coverage and made him internationally vilified. In a two-page statement posted Friday on his law firm blog, he said: "I can only hope that this news calms the fears of those people that were on the flights with me."

He also noted that an early May CDC lab result _ from a test which looks for evidence of drug resistance in TB bacteria genes _ showed the less dangerous TB.

CDC officials said that test is experimental and had to be confirmed with more standard testing. They stand by the May 22 test, and said the public health response should be the same regardless.

The quarantine order was driven in part because Speaker flew to Europe after state and local health officials advised him not to travel in commercial aircraft, then he flew home from Italy after a CDC official repeated and emphasized the same message, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

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