DENVER – The man infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis who set off a health scare could be allowed outside his isolated hospital room if a another test for the bacteria is negative, a hospital official said Monday.
The patient, Andrew Speaker, is being treated at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Two tests have been negative, meaning they have not shown the presence of TB bacteria, and doctors are awaiting results of a third test, hospital spokesman William Allstetter said in a statement.
If the third is negative, Speaker, 31, would be considered “relatively noncontagious” and could be allowed brief escorted trips outside his room wearing a mask, Allstetter said.
But he stressed that such a finding would not mean Speaker cannot transmit the disease, saying the bacteria could still grow in Speaker’s lungs and sputum. Tests so far indicate Speaker’s risk of spreading the infection are low, doctors said.
Ted Speaker, the man’s father, said Monday that he taped a meeting in which a doctor says three times that his son was not contagious though the doctors preferred that he not fly.
Before leaving last month for Europe for his wedding and honeymoon, Andrew Speaker has said he was advised by Fulton County, Ga., health authorities that he was not contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials told him they would prefer he didn’t fly, but no one ordered him not to, he said.
Speaker was in Europe when he learned tests showed he had not just TB, but an extremely drug-resistant strain known as XDR.
Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew home for treatment, fearing he wouldn’t survive if he didn’t reach the U.S., he said.
Speaker was quarantined May 25 after his return, in the first such action taken by the federal government since 1963. After being hospitalized in Atlanta, he was flown to Denver on Thursday for treatment.