Saturday, July 14, 2007

This is no surprise

Last week, Andrew Speaker, the 31 year-old globe-trotting, TB infected Atlanta attorney released his statement that he felt he had been unfairly tricked into federal isolation. That's correct, Speaker stated on July 6 2007, that he would have gladly gone into isolation if health officials had asked him to.


"They tried to trick me when it was unnecessary," Speaker said in a telephone interview.

Speaker knew before his long-planned wedding trip to Europe that he had been diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB and had been "advised" not to fly. His soon to be father inlaw had extensive experience with TB and had said that they only talked about it, he never gave Speaker any specific advise. Andrew though evidently felt that his personal plans for a wedding were more important than anyones safety, no matter how remote the chances for infection were.

He left early for his wedding and while he was in Italy, he was informed that the new test on May 22 by the CDC resulted in his diagnosis of having XDR-TB, a highly dangerous and difficult to treat drug resistant strain of TB. Again Speaker went against the advise he was given. Instead of following the advise of Dr David Kim of the CDC to either go into isolation in Italy or hire a private jet to come home with, Speaker took off running again. He stated that it was out of fear of not surviving a possible two years stuck in Italy, far away from the cutting-edge medical help he could receive in the U S.

After being advised again, to not travel, Speaker chose to board a commercial flight from Prague to Montreal and then rent a car to drive across the U S border. It was certainly his lucky day when even though there was a warning by CDC officials sent to all border agents, he drove up to the one who decided to ignore the warning and let him pass. Speaker said that health officials had asked him to swing by a New York City hospital for further testing and it is here that he claims he was tricked. After checking into the hospital, they posted armed guards outside his door and he was hit with the first order for quarantine since 1963.


"It was the first time anyone ever mentioned an isolation order to me," said Speaker.

Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, explained that the quarentine order was driven in part by Speaker's actions. He flew to Europe even after state and local health officials advised against his taking a commercial flight and again flew home after being advised he was infected with an even more dangerous strain of TB. Skinner said that officials felt that he had already shown a history of flight and that prompted his being held.

I am sure that officials did "trick" Andrew Speaker, just as they "trick" alleged criminals who have outstanding warrents by offering them a free TV or trip. They have a history of running when confronted with the law. At the time that Speaker was taken into quarentine, it was believed that he had XDR-TB, the most deadly type of TB. The fact that he took the effort to avoid flying out of Italy where I am sure he believed they would be checking for him and land in Canada for the same reason, I think he has proven not only a history of fleeing but also his disregard for anyones health but his own.

Speaker claims he never saw the isolation order coming, I sure hope as a personal-injury attorney, he has seen the next bus heading at him. Rosalind Yee, an attorney for 9 plaintiffs, eight of whom shared the plane to Montreal with Speaker, have filed suit in Quebec Superior Court. They are seeking $1.3 million US dollars in damages from him. All of those incuded in the suit have been tested for TB and only one has shown a positive on a skin test. That 72 year-old man is awaiting further tests to identify what strain of TB he has been in contact with.

During his interview, Speaker said that he had no current plans to sue health officials at the CDC or any other government agencies. I don't see what he could sue for, since he seems to have shown he certainly was a flight risk. As for his "misdiagnosis", it was changed from a very drug resistant strain to a highly dangerous one and he was still a possible serious danger to others. He may want to give some thought to the one man who has tested positive for exposure right now and hope that the tests don't show he has the same strain. If that is true, then all his whining about being "safe" to travel goes right out the window.


"I'm not some trust-fund baby, and there is nothing to go after," Speaker commented, in regards to the pending litigation.


As a personal-injury attorney, I am sure that has never stopped him from going forward with a reasonable lawsuit in the past and if he thinks not having "anything" will help him, just have a chat with O J Simpson. Not only did Andrew bring all of this upon himself, he endangered countless others with full knowledge of the health and legal ramifications of his actions. Whining that people dislike and tricked you isn't going to win much pity, at least not with me.

Update: posted July 17

Today, America's "favorite" TB celebrity, Andrew Speaker, underwent surgery to remove the diseased portion of his lung. The surgery began this morning at the University of Colorado Hospital, not at National Jewish Medical and Research Center where he has been under treatment since the end of May.

"The goal is not to release any of that tuberculosis into the operating room, the rest of the hospital, trying to keep everyone safe," stated CNN's Dr Sanjay Gupta, on CNN's "American Morning.

Gupta observed the care taken in those procedures during the surgery. After the surgery, Speaker will have to continue taking antibiotics to fight the tuberculosis until all of the cultures taken from him have been negative for eight weeks. At that point, he will be considered non-infectious but will still be carefully monitored by doctors.

It has been estimated that more than one-third of the world's population have the TB bacterium in their bodies but fortunately, only a fraction, possibly as high as one in ten, develop active TB disease. The rest of those people may never get sick, show symptoms or spread it to others. People with weakened immune systems though are more at risk of developing it, such as people receiving chemotherepy, children under five and those with HIV. It can usually be cured with treatment but it does remain the major cause of death and disability in the world, especially to those with HIV.

People who develop pulminary TB, which infects the lungs, are the most easily treatable but if it is not treated, it can lead to death. MDR-TB, the type of TB that Speaker was first diagnosed with, is a form of drug-resistant TB. It can't be killed by the two best antibiotics used in treatment, isoniazid and rifampin. Because of the resistance and difficulty of treament, most patients with it face up to two years of multidrug therepy.

XDR-TB is the most rare form of multidrug resistant TB and what Speaker had been mistakenly diagnosed when he was in Italy. Not only does the disease circumvent the two best antibiotics but it also is resistant to most of the alternative drugs used successfully against MDR-TB. These second-line drugs include any fluoroquinoline and at least one of the three injectable anti TB drugs: amikacin, capreomycin and kanamycin. These variety then requires at least two years of extensive drug treatment, possible surgery and is the most difficult to treat. It also has the highest mortality rate.

When Andrew Speaker was first diagnosed, he was diagnosised with a more drug resistant form of TB than normal. He was advised not to travel at the time, most likely since there were still tests pending to confirm his illness. Rather than take that advice and postpone his wedding, Speaker chose, I guess to use his vast knowledge of personal injury suits and his own happiness and boarded a plane against advice. He whines now that he was misdiagnosed and was afraid, so when he received the erroneous news that he had an even more rare and dangerous strain, he fled again, possibly putting more people at risk. I am glad that he has an easier mind now that he has had surgery and not facing extended care. It may give him more time to understand what his selfish desires may have done to just even one unsuspecting individual, while he jaunted and then fled home.

1 comment:

Willem said...

I certainly hope he comes through ok. I also hope it is a slow, agonizing process and he finds himself close to death many times.