It's finally peace of mind for Andrew Speaker and all those traveling with him on a May 12 Air France flight, from Atlanta to Paris.
"I'm relieved that the results came back that way," says Andrew Speaker. The Atlanta groom had traveled abroad for his wedding and honeymoon after being diagnosed with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.
Advertisement"I hope that brings a sense of peace and closure for the people who may have been concerned," he adds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that about 250 U.S. passengers aboard the flight had the TB tests done. None (including 25 sitting nearest to Speaker) indicate any signs of infection.
In addition, Canadian health officials, who investigated Speaker's return flight from Prague, Czech Republic, to Montreal on May 24 too, have found no evidence of any spread of the disease.
"We are six months out now from the time of exposure and there still continues to be no evidence of transmission," says Dr. Tom Wong, director of the community acquired infections division of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Canadian agency focused on the 29 passengers seated nearest Speaker on the Czech Air flight. "That's reassuring to us," Wong says. " In general, if people who have been around a TB patient haven't tested positive for TB exposure within six months it is strongly predictive that there won't be any development of active tuberculosis", he gives.
Several passengers on the Czech Air flight had sued Speaker for possibly exposing them to the disease. Meanwhile, Anlac Nguyen, the Montreal lawyer who filed the suit, has not returned any calls. On May 29 CDC officials had held a press conference. Here they announced they had put an unidentified man into enforced federal isolation. They urged passengers aboard the two trans-Atlantic flights to be tested for TB. The long duration of the flights made transmission a possibility for those sitting near him, although the risk was slight, they said.
At the time CDC officials had said the agency was taking the unusual and public actions ó including issuing the first federal isolation order since 1963 ó because the man was having extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. This is also called XDR TB. The disease is very difficult to treat, does not respond to most antibiotics and, as a result, can be deadly.
Later testing by a renowned TB hospital in Denver showed that Speaker never had XDR TB, but rather a more treatable, yet still serious, form of the disease called multi-drug resistant TB. Yet CDC officials maintain that both MDR and XDR TB require the same public health response.
Officials at the hospital, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, have said Speaker was at very low risk of transmitting the disease because he had no cough or any other outward symptoms. TB bacteria are spread through droplets from coughing, sneezing or speaking. Speaker only learned he had the disease by chance: when he underwent a chest x-ray for an injury.
In Denver, Speaker underwent cutting-edge antibiotic treatments. He also had surgery to remove an infected area of one lung. Since July, he has been in Georgia and remains on antibiotics. He is no longer considered to be potentially contagious.
"I feel like I've always felt," Speaker was quoted recently. "I feel fine."
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