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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaker didn't spread TB: public health officials

Andrew Speaker, the MDR-TB-positive Atlanta lawyer (pictured right) who flew back and forth across the Atlantic and attempted to sneak back into the US via Montreal, didn't infect any fellow passengers, .

The Public Health Agency of Canada identified and contacted the 29 people who were in that zone of potential infection on the Prague to Montreal flight. All but a few have completed the necessary two tests, an official of the agency confirmed.

"Based on the currently available information, there's no evidence of transmission on the flight," said Dr. Tom Wong, director of community acquired infections with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

"That's actually a welcome piece of news." [...]

While this is welcome news for Speaker's fellow passengers, it doesn't mean the saga is over, [Dr Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO's Stop TB program] said.

He said shortcomings in international guidelines that came to light during the Speaker case are being addressed by a working group. While the main principles - the guidance on testing people in the two rows on either side of an infected traveller, for instance - still hold, changes are needed to address actions countries should take when it is evident an infected person may have put others at risk.

"All the basic things will not change. But we want to expand on a few other points, to make it even clearer, if you like, to people what needs to be done in the case of a situation like that one," Raviglione said.

"It will define better what the responsibility of the public health authorities is and what WHO is, etc."

"Mr. Speaker was just the one that sounded, in a way, the alarm of what is going on," he added. "Sooner or later there will be a case like that that will fly again and so we have to be ready to try to contain the potential of transmissions to others."

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