A tuberculosis patient under the first federal quarantine since 1963 because of a rare and dangerous strain of the disease was flown to Denver for treatment today at a hospital that specializes in respiratory disorders, officials said.
The 31-year-old man walked into the facility wearing a mask around 8 a.m. and said he felt fine, Denver National Jewish Hospital spokesman William Allstetter said.
Doctors plan to begin treating him immediately with two antibiotics, one oral and one intravenous. He also will undergo a basic physical exam, a test to evaluate how infectious he is and a CT scan and lung X-ray, Allstetter said. Doctors hope to also determine where he contracted the disease.
He will be kept in a special unit with two rooms and a ventilation system, Allstetter said.
"He may not leave that room much for several weeks," he said.
The man, who has not been publicly identified beyond his age, knew he had TB when he flew from Atlanta to Europe in mid-May for his wedding and honeymoon, but he didn't find out until he was already there that it was an extensively drug-resistant strain considered especially dangerous.
Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, the man flew home for treatment.
Health officials in North America and Europe are trying to track down about 80 passengers who sat near him on the two trans-Atlantic flights, and they want passenger lists from four shorter flights the man took while in Europe. Patients on the shorter flights are not expected to be as much at risk, health officials said.
Among those being tested are more than two dozen University of South Carolina Aiken students, school spokeswoman Jennifer Lake said today. Two were apparently sitting near the man, possibly in the same row, she said.
One of those students, Laney Wiggins, said she is awaiting her skin test results, expected Friday.
"I'm very nervous," Wiggins told The (Columbia) State newspaper. "It's kind of sad that this is overshadowing the wonderful time we had in Europe."
The man flew to Paris on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385, also listed as Delta Air Lines codeshare Flight 8517, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He and his bride also took four shorter flights while in Europe &
Paris to Athens on May 14; Athens to Thira Island May 16; Mykonos Island to Athens May 21; and Athens to Rome May 21 &
but CDC officials said there was less risk of infection during the shorter hops compared to the trans-Atlantic flights, which each lasted eight hours or more.
It was while the man was in Rome that he learned further U.S. tests had determined his TB was the rare, extensively drug-resistant form, far more dangerous than he knew. They told him turn himself over to Italian health officials and not to fly on any commercial airlines.
Instead, on May 24, the man flew from Rome to Prague on Czech Air Flight 0727, then flew to Montreal aboard Czech Air Flight 0104 and drove into the U.S., according to CDC officials.
Officials are trying to contact people who sat within five rows of him on the two longest flights for testing.
Other passengers are not considered at high risk of infection because tests indicated the amount of TB bacteria in the man was low, said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's division of global migration and quarantine.
The infected man told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that doctors initially did not order him not to fly and only suggested he put off his long-planned wedding. "We headed off to Greece thinking everything's fine," he told the newspaper.
Dr. Charles Daley, head of the infectious disease division at National Jewish, said the hospital has treated two other patients with what appears to be the same strain of tuberculosis since 2000, although that strain had not been identified and named at the time. He said the patients had improved enough to be released.
Associated Press writers Mike Stobbe, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Yee in Atlanta contributed to this report.
TB patient in Denver for treament