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Doctors Change Diagnosis of American Man with Tuberculosis


An American man who traveled internationally with tuberculosis - despite instructions not to - has a new diagnosis and is not as sick as government doctors initially said he was. As VOA's Carol Pearson reports, the new diagnosis comes as a huge relief to the patient, his family and to everyone he came in contact with.

Andrew Speaker has been quarantined since returning to the United States. His latest tests show he has multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis instead of extensively drug resistant TB. The new diagnosis means his TB is treatable with drugs.

Dr. Charles Daley made the announcement from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado, where Speaker is being quarantined. "For Mr. Speaker, we now have a regimen that is more potent,” says Daley. “And, therefore, we believe his prognosis is better."

Speaker and his fiancée traveled to Europe for their wedding and honeymoon even though doctors were concerned he might spread his disease.

When he returned to the United States, tests by government doctors showed he had extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, meaning surgically removing part of his infected lung was a treatment option. The new results have changed that, not only for Speaker, but for anyone who may have contracted the disease from him.

"If someone has become infected by Mr. Speaker, we hope that has not happened, but if it was to happen, we now have some drugs available to try to treat them and prevent them from developing TB," says Dr. Daley.

Dr. Mitchell Cohen, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the CDC stands by its decision to quarantine Speaker.

"The public health actions that CDC took in this case and are continuing to take are sound and appropriate," says Cohen.

Dr. Cohen explained it is possible to have different types of TB in one sample and in one patient. He also said the CDC's sample could have been contaminated.

Andrew Speaker said he was relieved with the new diagnosis. He said government health officials need to apologize for creating an international panic and for the chilling effect it had on him and his family.

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