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TB patient's parents release tape

/ Source: The Associated Press

The family of a lawyer with a rare strain of tuberculosis released part of a tape recording Wednesday in which a health official is heard saying the man was not contagious and didn’t need to be isolated.

Andrew Speaker, the subject of the first federal quarantine order since 1963, has maintained that officials never ordered him not to fly before he left for his wedding and honeymoon in Europe. Officials say he flouted their orders, and Congress is investigating how officials handled the situation.

On CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Speaker — talking from his Denver hospital room — said he had known since an X-ray in January that he had TB and had been taking a combination of four standard drugs to treat it.

In the tape recording — made by Speaker’s father, Ted, also a lawyer — the patient asks about the hospital’s accommodations.

“Now, that I don’t know,” says Dr. Eric Benning, medical director of the Fulton County health department. “But because of the fact that you actually are not contagious, there’s no reason for you to be sequestered.”

At another point on the tape, Benning says: “As far as we can tell, you are not a threat to anybody right now.”

When King asked Speaker why he continued with his travel plans after learning that his disease was drug-resistant, Speaker said, “That doesn’t make me any more contagious.”

His wife, Sarah, said they would not have continued those plans if they thought he was dangerous.

“We made sure in that meeting that we were not putting anyone in harm’s way,” she said.

King said officials from the Fulton County health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were invited to appear on the show but declined.

A message left after business hours at the county health department wasn’t returned Wednesday.