COMMENTS: Not Contagious

Congress also got in the act on that traveler infected with the XDR-TB supergerm whose globetrotting ended in quarantine. Andrew Speaker, the patient, was called to testify by speakerphone, as officials from the Centers for Disease Control turned up in person. NBC's Pete Williams quoted Speaker's own explanation for why he decided to go ahead and get married in Greece: "I was also told I was not contagious, not a threat to anyone. I was told there was no need to sequester me." As for his decision to return from his Roman honeymoon by airline, Williams noted that the CDC's alternate suggestion was that he charter his own private plane "at a cost of more than $100,000." CBS' Bob Orr detailed the public health and border control failures that this incident exposed--then gave us the good news: "Despite all the mistakes, no one else has caught Speaker's deadly strain."

ABC's Ned Potter (subscription required) took the wider view, citing World Health Organization data that there are 30,000 cases of Speaker's almost untreatable XDR-TB strain worldwide and a further 400,000 cases each year of a TB "labeled resistant to standard drugs." Domestic pharmaceutical research on new medication for these strains totals $79m, Potter noted. An unnamed physician dismissed that investment as "one piece of candy per taxpayer."


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