US: Man at centre of 2007 XDR-TB alert sues CDC

Edwin J Bernard - April 29, 2009

I was alerted to this rather interesting piece of news by a regular reader from Canada, who points out the incredible differences between the way TB exposure and HIV exposure are treated. “Why was this guy not charged with some form of assault?” he wonders.

In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used its isolation powers for the first time since 1963 after Andrew Speaker, a 31 year-old lawyer from Atlanta, took two transatlantic flights, as well as numerous shorter flights around Europe, despite being initially told that he was infected with multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and, once further test results were available, XDR-TB. He was told on his diagnosis with MDR-TB that it was “preferred” that he didn’t fly. Once he was diagnosed with XDR-TB he was told in no uncertain terms that he must not fly.

On Tuesday, according to an Associated Press article, Mr Speaker filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta on Tuesday, which

claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention damaged Speaker’s reputation and made him the target of death threats. The lawsuit, which says he and his new bride split up because of the stress, seeks unspecified damages and court fees. It accuses the CDC of “unlawfully and unneccessarily” revealing Speaker’s private medical history and other sensitive information during an extensive media blitz in May 2007. “This is about setting the record straight,” Speaker said in a statement Wednesday. “Having my confidential medical history unnecessarily splashed across the world took a huge toll on me personally and professionally.”

Something is very wrong with this picture.