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Initial tests negative for lawyer with TB

Story Highlights

• NEW: Hospital says first two sputum tests have come back negative
• NEW: Third test result expected later Monday for Andrew Speaker
• NEW: Lawyer allowed to leave room sporadically with mask, physician says
Hospital: If third test is negative, Speaker would be "relatively noncontagious"
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DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- The first two tests of sputum of the 31-year-old lawyer who has extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis have come back negative, the National Jewish Medical and Research Center said Monday.

If a third test result, expected later Monday, also proves negative, Andrew Speaker -- whose air travel to his wedding in Greece set off international concerns last month -- would be considered "relatively noncontagious," said a statement from the Denver hospital.

Speaker had been confined to his room, which is equipped with special air filters and negative air pressure to ensure he does not infect others with the drug-resistant bacteria, which can prove fatal.

His primary care physician, Charles Daley, said Speaker is at the relatively low end of contagiousness but is contagious.

The personal-injury attorney is being allowed to leave his room sporadically but only while wearing a special TB mask, and he is being kept from other patients, Daley said.

He has been given antibiotics intravenously.

Typically, the hospital allows drug-resistant TB patients with three consecutive negative test results to take brief, escorted walks around hospital grounds, "far from patients or any other community members," the hospital said.

Speaker has received a letter from the Denver Health Authority Public Health Department, dated May 29, ordering that he be detained at National Jewish for treatment of TB "until further laboratory tests indicate that your TB is no longer likely to be contagious."

Denver's order coincided with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's withdrawal of an isolation order, the first one the federal government had issued in more than 40 years.

Speaker's family gave him a show of support during an appearance Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." (Full story)

"We're in hell and we want to get out of hell," said his father and fellow Atlanta attorney Ted Speaker about the ramifications of his son's trans-Atlantic travel, carried out over objections from health officials. "I don't feel it was reckless at all."

The elder Speaker said a CDC official told him before last month's flights that he was urging his son not to fly "to cover myself." Officials said "at least three times" that his son was not contagious, the father said.

He added that he covertly taped the conversation and planned to release a copy of the tape, though he did not say when.

"We were told that these induced sputum tests that he had were negative at that point so, by the guidelines, he was not considered infectious," said Speaker's father-in-law, Dr. Robert Cooksey, a tuberculosis researcher who has worked at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, for 32 years.

Of his son-in-law's travels, Cooksey said, "I probably would have done the very same thing."

The scientist said that "there is a little tension" from his co-workers at the CDC, "but they seem to be very understanding and very supportive."

Initial TB tests on family members have come back negative, the relatives said.


Andrew Speaker is a 31-year-old lawyer from Atlanta, Georgia, who is infected with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.


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  • Healthology
  • TB 101

    • Tuberculosis is caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. It usually affects the lungs and can lead to symptoms such as chest pain and coughing up blood. It kills nearly 2 million people each year worldwide.

    • Because of antibiotics and other measures, the TB rate in the United States has been falling for years. Last year, it hit an all-time low of 13,767 cases, or about 4.6 cases per 100,000 Americans.

    • "Multidrug-resistant" TB can withstand the mainline antibiotics isoniazid and rifampin. The man at the center of the current case was infected with something even worse -- "extensively drug-resistant" TB, also called XDR-TB, which resists many drugs used to treat the infection.

    • There have been 17 U.S. XDR-TB cases since 2000, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

    Source: The Associated Press

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