TB-infected traveller apologizes on TV network
The jet-setting tuberculosis patient who sparked an international health scare last week apologized to his fellow airline passengersin an interview aired Friday on ABC from his Denver hospital room.
"I don't expect those people to ever forgive me. I just hope they understand that I truly never meant them any harm," Andrew Speaker told ABC's Diane Sawyer onGood Morning America.
Wearing a partial face mask covering his mouth, he said: "I feel awful. I've lived in this state of constant fear, and anxiety and exhaustion for a week now, and to think that someone else is now feeling that, I wouldn't want anyone to feel that way."
The 31-year-old personal injury lawyer asked for forgiveness for sneaking on board two transatlantic flights to Europe and Montreal, even though he was aware he carried highly drug-resistant TB and was warned by U.S. health officials not to travel.
Speaker, a newlywed, was also told to stay put in Rome by U.S. doctors who contacted him and said further tests showed he actually had a more dangerous type of TB than previously thought. But he later took flights to Prague and then attempted to slip back into the United States via a flight to Montreal.
Defending his actions, he said he was told that he wasn't contagious or a danger to anyone. Speaker said officials never forbade him from travelling, but only said they would rather he not make the trip.
Speaker is now being held in near-isolation at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver for treatment for his form of TB, known as XDR.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control as well as an expert on infectious diseases said he is not especially infectious, seems healthy and has not been coughing.
On Thursday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said all of the 28 passengers who sat near Speaker on the Montreal flight were identified, and 25 of them were Canadians. All the passengers, whose names have not been released, are currently being tested.
In a twist, it was also revealed that Speaker's new father-in-law, Robert Cooksey, is a veteran microbiologist with the CDC in Atlanta. Cooksey said in a statement that neither he nor his CDC lab was the source of the TB.
With files from the Associated Press