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Tuberculosis Scare Lawyer Sues CDC

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, April 30, 2009 11:31 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: CDC, TB, Drug-resistant TB, Public Health

Andrew Speaker has sued the CDC for releasing his name and medical condition related to TB.

TB Scare Lawyer Sues CDC

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IMAGE SOURCE: ABC News Web site / Andrew Speaker and then-wife

 

His name sparked an international public health scare and a search for the man who had boarded a plane with a rare form of tuberculosis (TB).

Andrew Speaker was that man.

The lawyer from Atlanta, now 33, has filed suit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for invasion of privacy.  The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta and seeks unspecified damages.

The federal agency’s release of his name and sensitive medical information ruined his marriage and harmed his occupation and reputation, the lawsuit alleges.

“They had no right to stand up and talk about my private medical information,” Speaker said Wednesday to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “It gave them an opportunity to create a big story they could use to get funding.”

In May 2007, the CDC announced it was trying to find a man with an extensively drug-resistant form of TB (XDR-TB) who had boarded an international flight.

The lawsuit alleges the CDC announced his name and occupation and the fact that Speaker was going to Greece to be married, none of which needed to be released, he says.

Speaker claims the CDC had earlier told him he was not contagious and had amulti-drug resistance form of TB and was not a threat to anyone. 

When he was in Europe, the CDC changed Speaker’s diagnosis from the multi-drug resistance form of TB, to the more serious form of TB. Because of that, he was informed he could not board a commercial flight to return home.

Speaker instead flew commercially into Canada. That country didn’t have fly restrictions.

Later his diagnosis returned to the more treatable form of TB, but not before hundreds of passengers on the flights to and from Europe had to be tested. No one was infected. 

Upon his return from Greece, Speaker was ordered into isolation, the first federal isolation order by the federal agency in more than 40 years.  He was placed under armed guard and moved to a Denver hospital for two months.  He later made a full recovery. 

CNN reports, "Speaker became the object of unwanted public attention, including expressions of public scorn and contempt (including death threats) due to the inaccurate light in the information presented, resulting in so much strain on his marital relationship that he and his new bride parted ways after the wedding but before filing the marriage license," the suit alleges. #


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