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TB or not TB: The Speaker’s Affair as a Monument to Our Fears

I am aghast at finding out it’s open season on Andrew Speaker, the American lawyer that honeymooned around Europe despite being affected by a particularly dangerous strain of TB.

See for example a letter on the IHT asking for Speaker’s incarceration.

Emotional outpourings like that say a lot more about our current Age of Fear than of any recklessness on the part of Mr Speaker.

Fact is that nobody anywhere has ever caught TB because of a shared flight with a TB carrier.

The whole story is actually too murky to understand, with Speaker getting diagnosed by chance after breaking a rib, his father recording conversations with health care officials, and his father-in-law a prominent federal microbiologist and an expert on TB of all things.

It remains pretty much unexplicable why Speaker was not stopped before or whilst travelling, when there were plenty of occasions to do so: unless of course the whole “scandal” has been overbloated.

Methinks nobody will die out of Speaker’s travels; he himself will not suffer of any consequence, and will not develop any TB symptoms; the diagnosis will be revealed incorrect in the future; and no lessons will be learned in how to handle potential health scares…especially as there was no basis to speak of for the “scare” in the first place.

2 replies on “TB or not TB: The Speaker’s Affair as a Monument to Our Fears”

Hi folks,
Is there any clue about Speaker’s diagnosis? Was it the dreadful MDR-TB? or was it just a non-infectious atypical lung tuberculosis? No anger, nor worry warranted.
God bless him and his family

Dr Muherman Harun
jakarta 8 June 2010

MDR TB is usually the result of poor TB treatment. Almost always due to doctor’s ignorance and/or to patient’s non adherence to therapy. Eventually treatment failure accors. Leaving the patient with extensive lung lesions, forever viable TB bacilli (persistent positive sputum examination tests), poor lung functions with persistent cough, breathless even after mild physical excercise, weakened body defences and continuing deterioration of his physical condition. All these signs and symptoms did not show in Andrew Speaker’s case. Leaving me to seriously doubt the diagnosis of TB. Andrew Speaker’s disease is similar to a condition called “atypical” or “non-tuberculosis mycobacteriosis”, which is not contagious. His closest and most intimate contact, is his wife to whom he was engaged with before the disease was discovered in January. She was not infected and will never ever catch the disease.
The fear that Andrew’s case will infect other people is baseless.

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