HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, May 31, 2007

TB Quarantine

I am sure that many people have been following the rather frightening saga of the man, Andrew Speaker (and yes, he is an attorney (gulp!)), with drug-resistant TB now under quarantine after taking several flights, some transatlantic.  Here is the basic background:

A man with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis ignored doctors' advice and took two trans-Atlantic flights, leading to the first U.S. government-ordered quarantine since 1963, health officials said Tuesday.  The man, whom officials did not identify, is at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital in respiratory isolation. . . .

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the man said he had traveled to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon and expressed frustration with how he said the CDC handled the situation.  "I didn't want to put anybody at risk," the man, who declined to be identified because of the stigma surrounding his condition, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We just wanted to come home and get treatment."

The infected man flew from Atlanta to Paris on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385. He returned to North America on May 24 aboard Czech Air Flight 0104 from Prague to Montreal. The man then drove into the United States at the Champlain, N.Y., border crossing.

The man had been advised by health officials in early May not to travel to Europe. "He was told traveling is against medical advice," said Dr. Steven Katkowsky, director of the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness.

The man conceded that the health department advised him not to travel, but he didn't want to call off his wedding, he told the Journal-Constitution. The CDC never told him he couldn't go, he said.  When the man arrived back in the United States, he voluntarily went to a New York hospital, then was flown by the CDC to Atlanta. He is not facing prosecution, health officials said.

The man said the CDC contacted him in Rome during his honeymoon, telling him that he had to return home and that he had to turn himself in to Italian authorities, be isolated and be treated there, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Here is a brief update about Mr. Speaker, now in Denver receiving treatment, and his father-in-law, a CDC employee:

Speaker's father-in-law works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, an agency spokesman said Thursday.  The father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a microbiologist who has conducted research on tuberculosis for the National Center for Infectious Diseases, according to a CDC biography posted on the agency's Web site.

CNN affiliate WSB-TV reported that Cooksey gave his son-in-law, Speaker, "fatherly advice" after he found out his son-in-law had contracted the infectious disease, but did not advise him in any official capacity.

Concurring opinions' Steve Vladek has some thoughts on the law of quarantine and whether fellow travelers may sue the now-quarantined passenger.   (Thanks Professor O'Donnell for the link).  Other information and commentary can be found here, here and here.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the United States had a plan on how to deal with this type of situation and I am sure that the rest of the world is excited about having Americans traveling to visit them this summer.

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