World

TB-infected flyer prepares for lung surgery

The U.S. tuberculosis patient who sparked an international public health scare in May and subsequent lawsuits by travellers who flew with him was scheduled for surgery Tuesday to remove the diseased portion of his right lung.

The U.S.tuberculosis patient who sparked an international public health scare in May and subsequent lawsuits by travellers who flew with him was scheduledto havesurgery on Tuesday to remove the diseased portion of his right lung.

Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer, told CNN in an interview from the Denver hospital where he is confined he will have the operation to remove the upper lobe of his right lung Tuesday, with the expectation it will rid him of the disease.

Speaker became the focus of a U.S. government investigation — and an international uproar — when he proceeded in May with a wedding trip to Europe after health officials said they advised him not to fly. He also became the first American quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.

He was thenbeing taken to Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center, which specializes in TB treatment.

Speaker hassaid he was never warned against travel to Europe, but once he arrived in Italy for his wedding, U.S. health officials from the Centers for Disease Control informed him he had a lethal, drug-resistant strain of TB known as XDR-TB. They advised him to turn himself in to Italian authorities.

Instead, Speaker boarded a Czech Airlines flight to Montreal with his wife anddrove across the border into the U.S.

Speaker's doctors have said subsequent testing has shown only the less-dangerous multidrug-resistant TB.

Speaker told CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta the surgery, rather than continued intensive treatment, would give him peace of mind.

"If you're developing TB, even after your treatment, it can come back," Speaker said in the interview, aired Monday.

"With the amount of treatment I'm going to be on, the doctor said: 'If you go ahead and have the surgery, you don't have to worry 10 years from now or 20 years from now or 30 years now if it's ever going to come back.' "

Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen filed the civil suits against Speakerearlier this month in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of the passengers, as well as a ninth person who is related to one of the passengers but was not on the flight.

Thefive Montrealers, two Ottawa residents and two Czech citizens are seeking a total of $1.4 million in damages.

A total of 29 passengers on the flight from Prague are being followed by health officials in Canada and abroad because of the risk they may have been infected.

With files from the Associated Press