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TB Patient Says CDC Gave Him OK to Travel

A 31-year-old Atlanta attorney who went to Europe while infected with a hard-to-treat strain of tuberculosis said Friday that health officials told him it was safe to travel.

Andrew Speaker, who was quarantined this week, said on ABC's Good Morning America that although the Centers for Disease Control knew he had TB, he was given the green-light to fly to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon.

Speaker said health officials told him they would rather he didn't fly but didn't forbid it. His father, also a lawyer, taped that meeting, he said.

"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, (you) prefer (him) not to go on the trip because he's a risk ... or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, 'we have to tell you that to cover yourself, but he's not a risk,'" Speaker told ABC.

He also apologized to fellow passengers who might have been exposed to him. "I feel awful," he said through a mask at his hospital room in Denver. "I don't expect those people to ever forgive me. I just hope they understand that I truly never meant them any harm."

According to The Associated Press, even though U.S. officials had put Speaker on a warning list. After he completed the first leg of his trip to Europe, he caught a second flight to Montreal and then drove across the U.S. border on May 24 at Champlain, N.Y. A border inspector who checked him disregarded a computer warning to stop Speaker, officials said Thursday.

The inspector ran Speaker's passport through a computer, and a warning - including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities - popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials who spoke with the AP. The inspector has since been removed from border duty.

Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but told the AP that "public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training" within the agency.

The next day, Speaker became the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.

From The Associated Press

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