Saturday, June 2, 2007

TB Patient Faces 2 Months in Hospital

The man quarantined for a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis settled in Saturday for what could be a two-month hospital stay by taking antibiotics and fielding phone calls.

Andrew Speaker, the first person placed under federal quarantine since 1963, had breakfast and spent much of the day on the phone with well-wishers, his nurses at National Jewish Medical and Research Center reported.

Accompanied by his new bride, the 31-year-old Georgia attorney also used a laptop to communicate from his second-floor isolation room, equipped with an exercise bicycle and a TV, hospital spokeswoman Geri Reinardy said.

Speaker was taking antibiotics to battle a tennis ball-sized infection in his lung, Reinardy said. Doctors said his treatment could include surgery to remove the infected tissue if the drugs don't work.

Tests so far indicate Speaker's risk of spreading the infection are low, doctors said. No medical briefings for the news media were planned during the weekend.

Doctors hope to determine where Speaker contracted the disease, which has been found around the world and exists in pockets in Russia and Asia. The tuberculosis was discovered when Speaker had a chest X-ray in January for a rib injury.

Some hospital staff marveled at the attention the case has generated, Reinardy said.

"It's just another day in the life of National Jewish," she said. "When I go over to his floor the nurses say, 'What's the big deal? We deal with this all the time.'"

Since 2000, National Jewish has successfully treated two other patients with extremely drug-resistant strains of TB, known as XDR. Dr. Gwen Huitt said they were under quarantine in their home counties, then placed under quarantine in Denver once they arrived at National Jewish, driven there nonstop by family members.

On Friday, Speaker repeatedly apologized to the dozens of airline passengers and crew members he may have exposed while on a trans-Atlantic flight last month.

Speaker has said he, his doctors and the CDC all knew he had TB that was resistant to some drugs before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon. But he said he was advised at the time by Fulton County, Ga., health authorities that he was not contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials told him they would prefer he didn't fly, but no one ordered him not to, he said.

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