Extreme TB patient taken to Denver

(CBS/AP) A tuberculosis patient under the first federal quarantine since 1963 was taken Thursday to National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, which specializes in respiratory disorders, officials said.

He walked into the building shortly before 8 a.m. and said he felt fine, hospital spokesman William Allstetter said.

CBS News has learned the man with the extreme form of tuberculosis is Andrew Harley Speaker, a 31-year-old lawyer from Atlanta who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with both an undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Georgia.

Allstetter said doctors plan to begin treating him today with two antibiotics, one oral and one intravenous. Speaker will also undergo a basic physical exam, a test to evaluate how infectious he is and a CT scan and lung X-ray. Doctors hope to also determine where he contracted the disease.

Speaker will be kept in a special unit with two rooms and a special ventilation system, Allstetter said.

"He may not leave that room much for several weeks," he said.

Doctors also plan to take a patient history in an attempt to determine where Speaker might have contracted the disease, asking him about past travel and social contacts.

Speaker knew he had TB when he flew from Atlanta to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon, but he didn't find out until he was already there that it was an extensively drug-resistant strain considered especially dangerous.

Despite warning from federal health officials not to board another long flight, Speaker flew home for treatment.

The case has highlighted commercial air travel's potential for spreading infection and continues to cause handwringing among public health officials.

"We always think of planes as a vehicle for spreading disease," said Dr. Doug Hardy, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

"It has certainly gotten our concern and attention," Dr. Linda Rosenstock, dean of UCLA's School of Public Health, told CBS' The Early Show.

Rosenstock added that the perception of infectious diseases being a threat only to those in poor nations is misguided. "Public health isn't about other people, it's about us," she said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding said Wednesday that the CDC is working closely with airlines to find passengers who may have been exposed to the rare, dangerous strain. Health officials in France said they have asked Air France-KLM for passenger lists, and the Italian Health Ministry said it is tracing the Speaker's movements.

Among those being tested are more than two dozen University of South Carolina Aiken students, school spokeswoman Jennifer Lake said Thursday. Two were apparently sitting near the man, possibly on the same row, she said.

Speaker's case illustrates ongoing concerns about the public health perils of plane travel, as well as the continuing problem of Typhoid Mary-like individuals who can almost be counted on to do the wrong thing.

Alison Young, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who interviewed Speaker by telephone, told CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella the man said health officials never required him to wear masks or isolate himself.

"There's always going to be situations where there is a lack of understanding and appreciation of responsibility to the community in a situation like this," said Dr. John Ho, an infectious diseases specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The incident also points out weaknesses in the system: Speaker was able to re-enter the United States, even though he said he had been warned by federal officials that his passport was being flagged and he was being placed on a no-fly list.

CDC officials said they contacted the Department of Homeland Security to put the man on a no-fly list, but it doesn't appear he was added by the time he flew from Prague to Montreal and drove across the border from Canada.

A Transportation Security Administration spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Challenges in coordinating with airlines and in communicating with the media also have emerged, said Glen Nowak, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This clearly is going to have some relevance to our pandemic influenza preparedness," Nowak said.

There have been several prominent disease-on-a-plane incidents in recent years.

Perhaps best known is severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which erupted in Asia in 2003. Over three months, CDC workers delayed on the tarmac 12,000 airplanes carrying 3 million passengers arriving from SARS-affected countries, isolating people with SARS symptoms.

Last year, CDC officials worked with airlines and state health departments to track two infected airline passengers who may have helped spread a mumps epidemic throughout the Midwest.

And in March, a flight from Hong Kong was held at Newark Liberty International Airport for two hours because some on board reported feeling ill from a flu-like illness. They were released when it became clear they had seasonal flu, and not an avian variety.

Medical experts say TB is significantly less contagious than flu, SARS and other maladies that have led to airport alerts.

"This is not as easily transmissible as what we're concerned about with a flu pandemic," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

A more contagious bug, carried by a stubborn or evasive passenger, could be much more problematic, experts said.

It's remarkable how rarely serious contagions are on planes, Ho noted.

"If you count the number of international flights there are on a daily basis, this is really a minuscule event" in terms of rate of occurrence, he said.

"However, this underscores the interrelatedness of the global community. We can no longer escape things considered foreign" in this age of jet-travel, Ho said.

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