Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anybody else seeing a pattern here?

This is not the first government quarantine for tuberculosis even in 2007. But it is, apparently, the first by the federal government. The similarities are striking:

The man told the Journal-Constitution he was in Rome during his honeymoon when the CDC notified him of the new tests and told him to turn himself in to Italian authorities to be isolated and be treated. The CDC told him he couldn't fly aboard commercial airliners.

"I thought to myself: You're nuts. I wasn't going to do that. They told me I had been put on the no-fly list and my passport was flagged," the man said.

He told the newspaper he and his wife decided to sneak back into the U.S. through Canada. He said he voluntarily went to a New York hospital, then was flown by the CDC to Atlanta.

He is not facing prosecution, health officials said.

"I'm a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person," he told the paper. "This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I've cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing."
And this is still the issue: is TB as contagious as the common cold?

We do not want this disease in the United States, although it's clearly here. And we do want to take reasonable measures to make sure that it's not spread in the community. But it does not require locking anybody up in a jail. TB is not that easy to get. I mean, if you hang around in homeless shelters, in prisons or in places where a lot of people are immuno-compromised, like have HIV disease, then it's certainly going to be spread. But just someone walking around, at least if he doesn't go right up next to you and breathe in your mouth for a couple of hours, you're not going to get TB that way. So we have to learn something about tuberculosis, as well as something about the inappropriateness and, I think, unconstitutionality of locking people up with the disease.
This is the same strain of TB Robert Daniels has. And CDC officials are not (yet) saying this unnamed individual is highly contagious:

"Is the patient himself highly infectious? Fortunately, in this case, he's probably not," Gerberding said. "But the other piece is this bacteria is a very deadly bacteria. We just have to err on the side of caution."
But the fear of a form of TB that can't be treated with drugs is very high:

But Gerberding noted that U.S. health officials have had little experience with this type of TB. It's possible it may have different transmission patterns, she said.

"We're thankful the patient was not in a highly infectious state, but we know the risk of transmission isn't zero, even with the fact that he didn't have symptoms and didn't appear to be coughing," Gerberding said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"We've got to really look at the people closest to him, get them skin tested."
So far, our reaction to this fear has been to lock up the person who is the source of our anxiety, and think ourselves well-served by that.

Are we?

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