Infected man's journey exposes security flaws
A man with a rare form of TB eluded safeguards to protect against the spread of diseases.
THE episode involving a Georgia man with a dangerous form of tuberculosis
who could have exposed hundred of passengers to the disease on at least four flights through Europe and North America stresses the need for improved procedures to protect the public from the spread of infectious diseases.
As a hub of global air travel, Hawaii should be especially concerned about the inability of authorities to intercept the man even with all the post-9/11 efforts to heighten homeland security. The incident showed the flaws in the nation's preventive system for diseases, and for terrorism as well. An inquiry by Congress and a review by the Bush administration of its security programs are in order.
Andrew Speaker, diagnosed with TB earlier this year, was advised by Georgia officials not to travel. It was not until he had left Atlanta for his wedding and honeymoon in Europe that his disease was determined to be an extremely drug-resistant form. He was located in Rome and told by U.S. health officials not to take commercial airplanes back to the United States, but he and his bride flew to Prague, then to Montreal and drove into the country from Canada.
Despite instructions to detain Speaker, to don protective clothing and to alert authorities, a border patrol agent heedlessly cleared him to enter, saying Speaker looked healthy.
Speaker now is under quarantine and being treated, but his odyssey unveiled a host of concerns, including health officials' ambiguous authority, a lack of international coordination among health agencies and a negligence in preparedness for biological hazards.
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