DENVER — A federal microbiologist, the father-in-law of the man quarantined with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, will be investigated to see how he was involved in the case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.
Meanwhile, the CDC said it has withdrawn the federal isolation order for TB patient Andrew Speaker because a Denver health agency’s order to detain him at a hospital there is sufficient to protect the public’s health. The action ends the first federal quarantine order since 1963.
Speaker has said he, his doctors and the CDC all knew he had TB that was resistant to some drugs before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon last month.
Robert Cooksey, whose specialty at the CDC is TB and other bacteria, and who attended his daughter’s wedding, has said he provided “fatherly advice” to Speaker about traveling with the illness.
Speaker said he was advised at the time by Fulton County, Ga., health authorities that he was not contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials told him they would prefer he didn’t fly, but no one ordered him not to, he said.
Speaker was in Europe when he learned tests showed he had not just TB, but an extremely drug-resistant strain known as XDR.
Federal health officials said Friday that Cooksey had helped to find Speaker and diagnose his condition. They would not give any more information about the investigation.
Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, Speaker flew back for treatment, fearing he wouldn’t survive if he didn’t reach the U.S., he has said. He said he tried to sneak home by way of Canada instead of flying directly into the U.S.
He was federally quarantined May 25, a day after he was allowed to pass through the border crossing at Champlain, N.Y.
The Denver health authority has ordered that Speaker be detained at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center until tests indicate he is no longer contagious, the CDC said.
Settling in for long hospital stay
Speaker settled in Saturday for what could be a two-month hospital stay by taking antibiotics and fielding phone calls. He had breakfast and spent much of the day on the phone with well-wishers, his nurses at National Jewish reported.
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Accompanied by his new bride, the 31-year-old Georgia attorney also used a laptop to communicate from his second-floor isolation room, equipped with an exercise bicycle and a TV, hospital spokeswoman Geri Reinardy said.
Speaker was taking antibiotics to battle a tennis-ball-size infection in his lung, Reinardy said. Doctors said his treatment could include surgery to remove the infected tissue if the drugs don’t work.
Tests so far indicate Speaker’s risk of spreading the infection are low, doctors said. No medical briefings for the news media were planned during the weekend.
Doctors hope to determine where Speaker contracted the disease, which has been found around the world and exists in pockets in Russia and Asia. The tuberculosis was discovered when Speaker had a chest X-ray in January for a rib injury.
Since 2000, National Jewish has successfully treated two other patients with XDR. Dr. Gwen Huitt said they were under quarantine in their home counties, then placed under quarantine in Denver once they arrived at National Jewish, driven there nonstop by family members.
Health officials have contacted 160 of the 292 U.S. citizens who were on the May 12 flight from Atlanta to Paris, according to the CDC. That count includes all 26 who sat in the five rows around Speaker — the ones considered at greatest risk.
The CDC initially said there were 310 aboard the flight but reduced the number because of duplicate names.
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