Friday, July 13, 2007
As someone who grew up in Germany and probably was vaccinated against TB as a child, I've been following the Andrew Speaker case on a personal level - not just as a journalist.
Thursday's revelation that one of the passengers on Speaker's flight back to North America tested positive brought back memories for me. That's because it reminds me that people can test positive for TB without having it. I'm one of those people.
I remember quite vividly being in 3rd or 4th grade and having one of my classmates shout "ew, she has the disease, she has the disease" because I had what looked like a round rash 2 days after getting 5 pricks from a TB tine test (nowadays a single injection is used). I didn't think I was sick and a follow-up x-ray showed my lungs were fine. But the impact was lasting.
I had a couple more TB tests administered while I was in school. But at least I was prepared now. I knew to expect the round redness on my forearm and another set of chest x-rays. Each time I was negative. Why was I testing positive? I may have been given a TB vaccine (I haven't checked my vaccine records in decades). TB vaccine was not commonly used in the U.S., but Europeans did use TB vaccine and it can cause a positive TB test. Or I may have come in contact with someone who had TB. In the end I was always told that I didn't have TB. But to this day, it's with me. When I go to the doctor and go over my medical history, I'll tell the doc I always test positive for TB.
So now, Andrew Speaker is being sued by 8 fellow passengers. Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta, Georgia, lawyer, caused an international uproar when he disregarded doctors' advice and traveled abroad to get married, potentially exposing his fellow passengers to the disease.
According to the attorney filing the lawsuit, one of these passengers, who was on the same flight from Prague to Montreal - a 72-year-old man- had tested positive for TB on a skin test. Follow-up x-rays have come back normal, but he's still waiting for further test results.
Could Speaker have infected him on the plane? His own physician, TB expert Dr. Charles Daley tells CNN this positive skin test result is "absolutely not related to Andrew Speaker." And Canadian health officials say so far "no active TB cases have been identified among the 29 passengers."
Why not? This passenger tested positive just 6 days after being on the same plane as Speaker. Not enough time has passed. Several TB experts tell us that a minimum of 2 weeks have to pass before a test would come back positive, if this man had been infected by the attorney from Atlanta.
If any of the other passengers stay TB negative for 2 months (which is just 11 days away), they can be sure they were not infected by Speaker, experts tell us.
The 8 passengers are suing Speaker because they feel he intentionally disregarded their safety. Do you think he did?
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