Lawyer knowingly exposes hundreds of people to TB

  1. It is my opinion that this person should be arrested/charged with attempting to harm all the people on the flights and elsewhere that he exposed to this illness. He knowingly put his personal life issues above the safety of others and even tried to CIRCUMVENT US Immigration authorities by sneaking back into the US from Canada!!!

    I won't comment on WHERE I believe this guy GOT the TB. :wtf:

    Tuberculosis Patient Identified as Attorney
    Man's Relative Is CDC Scientist Who Studies the Disease
    By GREG BLUESTEIN and DEVLIN BARRETT
    AP


    ATLANTA (May 31) - A globe-trotting Atlanta lawyer with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis was allowed back into the U.S. by a border inspector who disregarded a computer warning to stop him and don protective gear, officials said Thursday.

    The inspector has been removed from border duty.

    The unidentified inspector explained that he was no doctor but that the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely "discretionary," officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.

    The patient was identified as Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer who returned last week from his wedding and honeymoon trip through Italy, the Greek isles and other spots in Europe. His new father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a CDC microbiologist whose specialty is TB and other bacteria.

    Cooksey would not comment on whether he reported his son-in-law to federal health authorities. Nor did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain how the case came to their attention. However, Cooksey said that neither he nor his CDC laboratory was the source of his son-in-law's TB.

    Speaker is now under quarantine at a hospital in Denver. He is the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.

    The disclosure that the patient is a lawyer - and specifically a personal injury lawyer - outraged many people on the Internet and elsewhere. Some travelers who flew on the same planes with Speaker angrily accused him of selfishly putting hundreds of people's lives in danger.

    "It's still very scary," 21-year-old Laney Wiggins, one of more than two dozen University of South Carolina-Aiken students who are getting skin tests for TB. "That is an outrageous number of people that he was very reckless with their health. It's not fair. It's selfish."

    Speaker said in a newspaper interview that he knew he had TB when he flew from Atlanta to Europe in mid-May for his wedding and honeymoon, but that he did not find out until he was already in Rome that it was an extensively drug-resistant strain considered especially dangerous.

    Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew home for treatment, fearing he wouldn't survive if he didn't reach the U.S., he said. He said he tried to sneak home by way of Canada instead of flying directly into the U.S.


    He was quarantined May 25, a day after he was allowed to pass through the border crossing at Champlain, N.Y., along the Canadian border.

    The inspector ran Speaker's passport through a computer, and a warning - including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities - popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials familiar with the records.

    The Homeland Security Department is investigating.

    "The border agent who questioned that person is at present performing administrative duties," said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke, adding those duties do not include checking people at the land border crossing.

    Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said "public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training" within the agency.

    On Thursday, a tan and healthy-looking Speaker was flown from Atlanta to Denver, accompanied by his wife and federal marshals, to Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center, where doctors planned to isolate him and treat him with oral and intravenous antibiotics.

    Dr. Charles Daley, chief of the hospital's infectious-disease division, said he is optimistic Speaker can be cured because he is believed to be in the early stages of the disease.

    Dr. Gwen Huitt of National Jewish described Speaker as "a young, healthy individual" who is "doing extremely well."

    "By conventional methods that we traditionally use in the public health arena ... he would be considered low infectivity at this point in time," she said. "He is not coughing, he is healthy, he does not have a fever."

    Doctors hope also to determine where he contracted the disease, which has been found around the world and exists in pockets in Russia and Asia.

    He will be kept in a special unit with a ventilation system to prevent the escape of germs. "He may not leave that room much for several weeks," hospital spokesman William Allstetter said.

    Speaker's father-in-law has worked at the CDC for 32 years and is in the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, where he works with TB and other organisms. He has co-authored papers on diabetes, TB and other infectious diseases.

    "As part of my job, I am regularly tested for TB. I do not have TB, nor have I ever had TB," he said in a statement. "My son-in-law's TB did not originate from myself or the CDC's labs, which operate under the highest levels of biosecurity."

    In a brief telephone interview with the AP, Cooksey said that he gave Speaker "fatherly advice" when he learned the young man had contracted the disease.

    "I'm hoping and praying that he's getting the proper treatment, that my daughter is holding up mentally and physically," Cooksey said. "Had I known that my daughter was in any risk, I would not allow her to travel."

    According to a biography posted on a Web site connected with Speaker's law firm, the young lawyer attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in finance, then attended University of Georgia's law school. He is in private practice with his father, Ted Speaker, an unsuccessful candidate for a judgeship in 2004.

    Andrew Speaker recently moved from an upscale condominium complex in anticipation of his wedding, former neighbors said. He also wrote in an application to become a board member of his condo association that he was going to Vietnam for five weeks as part of the Rotary Club to act as an ambassador.

    His wife, Sarah, is a third-year law student at Atlanta's Emory University.

    "He's a great guy. Gregarious," said Pam Hood, a former neighbor. "He's a wonderful guy. Just a very, very pleasant man."

    Health officials in North America and Europe are now trying to track down about 80 passengers who sat near him on his two trans-Atlantic flights, and they want passenger lists from four shorter flights he took while in Europe.

    However, other passengers are not considered at high risk of infection because tests indicated the amount of TB bacteria in Speaker was low, said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's division of global migration and quarantine.

    Health law experts said Speaker could be sued if others contract TB.

    "There are a number of cases that say a person who negligently transmits an infectious disease could be held liable," said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University. "So long as he knew it was infectious, and knew about the appropriate behavior but failed to comply, he could be held liable."

    Speaker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wasn't coughing and that doctors initially did not order him not to fly and only suggested he put off his long-planned wedding. "We headed off to Greece thinking everything's fine," he told the newspaper.

    Devlin Barrett contributed to this story from Washington. Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington; Mike Stobbe in Atlanta; Jim Davenport in Columbia, S.C.; and Colleen Slevin in Denver also contributed to this report, along with AP news researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York.
     
  2. Jerk.
     
  3. I read about this yesterday & was like:wtf:~ All these poor people must be frantic!

    I contracted Strep on an airline flight. Never had it before in my life & literally felt like I was going to die.

    I now literally wipe down airline seat arms & trays with alcohol wipes before I will even let me or my children sit down. I look like a freak but I don't care!
     
  4. He should be arrested or, at the very least, fined. He was advised not to travel.
     
  5. That is unbelievable. He exposed all these people to TB including his brand new wife. What a winner. I hope that they are able to find everyone that he came into contact with. That is just awful.
     
  6. CREEP, I don't care if he lives.
     
  7. This guy is pure scum. I just hope no one else contracted this horrible disease.
     
  8. What an idiot! He should be charged with reckless disregard, and be sentanced to 1 week in jail for every person he put at risk!
     
  9. just horrific. shows his true character ...
     
  10. If you were his wife would you have gone on a honeymoon with him??
     
  11. what a jerk. i flicked on the tv yesterday only to find out that someone was running around my freakin' airport knowing he had drug-resistant TB. i put a very dear friend of mine on a flight back to Denver from Atlanta today. kinda makes me wonder who he's sitting next to on the flight right now...

    honestly doesn't surprise me, though. i saw a guy at the Atlanta airport one time who was coughing into a rag and looked like those old pictures you see of people with smallpox all over them. all i could think was "good, he's going in the opposite direction, so he's NOT going to be on my flight."
     
  12. Horrible.
     
  13. I agree that this was a really bad move on his part, and he probably should be fined. On the other hand, I can certainly understand the sense of desperation he must have felt at being away from home in a place that potentially does not have as good medical care as your home, where doctors do not speak english necessarily, and back home your FIL is an EXPERT in this disease. I would certainly be desperate to get back to America were I in his position.

    I also think the US should have made more of an effort to transport him safely back to the US so that he didn't make the decision to fly on a commercial flight like he did.
     
  14. See. I've never been on a plane before and my first flight is in July, and these are NOT the things you want to hear about before getting on a plane, especially if you were already afraid to fly! Some people. I don't see how he was allowed to get away with this. I'm thinking I need to take a surgical mask or other apparatus on the flight with me!

    :tdown:
     
  15. :wtf: he endangered others!