A US tuberculosis patient who ignored warnings not to board a transatlantic flight with a potentially deadly strain of the disease is being sued by seven Canadians and two Czechs who flew with him, media said Thursday.
American Andrew Speaker sparked an international health scare two months ago when he flew to Montreal via Prague, against doctors' orders.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had said he was infected with a potentially deadly strain of tuberculosis generally irresponsive to drug treatment and asked him to turn himself into Italian authorities.
But he refused, choosing to return home to the United States from his Greek wedding and Italian honeymoon through Canada to avoid detection.
Nassim Tabri, who sat one row behind Speaker on the flight from Prague to Montreal, blasted Speaker's "reckless and selfish behavior."
"It was particularly stressful," he told public broadcaster CBC. "I was helpless as well, because in my head at that moment I was just thinking my future goals are gone."
"I want justice, I want what's fair. Why should Mr. Speaker feel that his life is worth more (than) my life and the lives of the other innocent passengers on the plane?" said Tabri.
Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen said on behalf of the complainants that nine separate civil lawsuits would be filed against Speaker on Thursday, and more suits could be filed in the coming few weeks.
The complainants have been unable to work, and live with fear, stigma and isolation, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., lamenting, "all the pain, suffering that they had to go through, all the anxiety."
Nassim Tabri will find out later this month if he has the disease.
Speaker has been under mandatory isolation since returning to the United States.
On July 3, Charles Daley of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado, where Speaker is being treated, said Speaker does not have a rare drug-resistant form of the disease, or XDR-TB.
Rather, he suffers from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which is still serious but is easier to treat, he said.
Speaker was the first person in more than four decades to be placed under mandatory isolation by US health authorities.
He was engaged to be married and in the thick of planning his May nuptials, when doctors found in January he was infected with TB. Because treatment was ineffective, he decided to check into a cutting-edge clinic in Denver after his honeymoon.
After their Greek wedding, the newlyweds flew to Italy for their honeymoon.
By then, US health officials had realized just how serious the case was and managed to contact Speaker in Rome. A CDC official told him to turn himself in to Italian health authorities to be placed in isolation.
"They told me I had been put on the no-fly list and my passport was flagged," he said on his return, insisting he had no intention of undergoing treatment in Italy.
To avoid detection, the couple flew to Montreal via Prague and then drove to the United States, where he called the CDC and agreed to head to an isolation hospital in New York. He was eventually transferred to Denver.
The CDC said his level of infectiousness was "quite low" but urged people who were sitting close to him on the transatlantic flights to contact authorities for testing.