TB or Not TB: Or Least Not XDR-TB


The Centers for Disease Control misdiagnosed runaway lawyer Andrew Speaker's type of tuberculosis. It's MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant) TB. That's good news for Speaker. Nevertheless, the CDC insists that it would have raised the same hullabaloo had it known that Speaker suffered from the less serious (though still quite serious) version of tuberculosis.

The World Health Organization recommends:

People known to have infectious TB must not travel by public air transportation until at least two weeks of adequate treatment have been completed. Patients with MDR-TB should not travel until they have been proved to be non-infectious (i.e. culture-negative).

Speaker was apparently culture-postive, so he should not have gotten on an airplane. On the other hand, if the CDC wants to quarantine people, suggesting to them that they charter a $140,000 private plane for a return flight seems like a counterproductive way to talk them into it. And there is some question whether or not CDC officials were clear about how contagious Speaker was.

Speaker is certainly no hero here, but the CDC's keystone cop antics during this episode are worrying too.