Technology & Science

Passengers at risk from TB traveller's flight identified

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday that all of the 28 passengers who sat within two rows of an American man with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis on a Montreal-bound flight have been identified.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday thatall of the 28 passengers who sat nearan American man with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis on a Prague to Montreal flight have been identified.

Of the 28 passengers, 19 were Canadian residents— 14from Quebec and fivefrom Ontario —the agency said. Their names and contact information have been given to public health authoritiesso they can be tested.

Also Thursday,the man infected was flownto a Denver hospital that specializes in treating the illness.

Thirty-one-year-old Andrew Speaker is under a rare federal isolation order in the U.S. because he has extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, an infection that is difficult to treat.

Since he took two transatlantic flights that potentially put other passengers at risk, health officials in North America and Europe are trying to track down and testabout 50 passengers who sat within two rows ofhim. Health officials stress the risk of infection is very low.

Speaker, a personal injury attorney,arrived in Denver in a private air ambulance with his wife and federal marshals and was driven by ambulance to Denver National Jewish Medical. He walked into the hospital wearing a mask, saying he felt well, hospital spokesman William Allstetter said.

Dr. Charles Daley, head of infectious diseases at the hospital,said they plan to treat him for months with antibiotics approved for other diseases such as pneumonia and leprosy, and they will give him tests to determine how infectious he is.Lung surgery may also help.

Speakerwill stay in a hospital room with a special ventilation unit and filters to kill bacteria. He isnot permitted to leave the hospital room until tests show he is no longer infectious, said Dr. Gwen Huitt, who examined Speaker when he arrived at the hospital on Thursday.

Speaker's father-in-law, Robert Cooksey, is a microbiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. In a statement released by the agency on Thursday, Cooksey said neither he nor his CDC laboratory was the source of the TB.

"I'm hoping and praying that he's getting the proper treatment, that my daughter is holding up mentally and physically," Cooksey told the Associated Press, saying he gave Speaker "fatherly advice"about the infection. "Had I known that my daughter was in any risk, I would not allow her to travel."

Speaker, who knew he had TB,flew Air France Flight 385 to Paris from Atlanta on May 12, saying he didn't initially realize that his tuberculosis was resistant to drugs.

He was called byU.S. health authoritiesduring his honeymoon in Rome and toldhe shouldn't fly aboard commercial airlines — though he was never formally ordered not to fly — and he was to turn himself in to Italian authorities, isolate himself and get treated.

"I thought to myself, 'You're nuts.' I wasn't going to do that [stay in Italy]. They told me I had been put on the no-fly list and my passport was flagged," hetold the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But by the time U.S. health officials tracked Speakerdown at a hotel in Rome, he had already left for Montreal. He calledthe newspaperto share his story, saying he did not believe the Italian medical system could treat his infection, and that he and his wife decided to sneak back into the U.S. via Montreal.

Heflew on Czech Airlines Flight 0104 from Prague to Montreal in seat 12C on May 24 and then drove to New York.

During their honeymoon, the couple also took four shorter flights in Europe— Paris to Athens on May 14; Athens to Thira Island May 16; Mykonos Island to Athens May 21; and Athens to Rome May 21— but health officials say there is less risk of infection from theseflights.

Contact information for the remaining 163 passengers on the flight to Montreal will be shared with the public health authorities on Thursday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

Anyone in Canada with questions about TB or this particular case can contact federal public health officials at 1-866-225-0709.

With files from the Associated Press