More on Identifying the TB Patient

I blogged the other day about the inappropriate disclosure of the TB patient’s identity. Over at Chronicles of Dissent, Dissent has an interesting post worth reading about the issue. He quotes Dr. Martin Cetron, Director of Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, who said: “I don’t think, publicly naming the individual, which we never do, has any advantage in [faciliating contacting individuals at risk of contracting TB from exposure to the patient], since this is not a disease that’s spread by casual interactions with the public.” Dissent writes:

Certainly by now, the patient has been portrayed in a generally unflattering light in the media — as someone who was only concerned about his own needs and desires and who gave little thought to the health of others. Less media attention has been paid to his statements that he was never ordered not to fly, that at the time he left the country, he had not been diagnosed with the dangerous treatment-resistant strain, and that after they contacted him in Europe to inform him, he felt the CDC did not move quickly enough to make arrangements for his safe travel back to the U.S. for treatment — so he made his own arrangements.

Check out the full post for more about the issue.

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2 Responses

  1. Dave! says:

    First, there is no dispute that the patient knew he at *least* had TB before he left for Europe. Having TB and getting on a commercial flight was irresponsible–even if he didn’t yet know it was XDR yet.

    Second, there is no dispute that he was notified that he had XDR before he chose to leave Europe. If, in fact, he claims to have left only because he didn’t think that the CDC was working fast enough to get him home, I think a *very* strong inference can be made that he knew what he was doing was wrong: he avoided a direct flight home, instead choosing to fly into Canada and then rent a car to drive home. That is not consistent with someone who doesn’t really feel they pose a danger and just wants to get home for treatment in the most expedient manner.

    I agree with you and Dissent that the release of his name by medical professionals was a breach of ethics and should be investigated, but let’s not disregard the patient’s complete lack of regard for the health and well-being of his fellow passengers. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  2. Dave — My posts and Dissent’s posts both strongly argue that the TB patient acted irresponsibly. The point in these posts is to point out how irresponsibly the government and medical officials acted — not just in releasing the patient’s name but in not adequately addressing the situation as it was unfolding. Had the officials acted differently, perhaps the patient may not have been permitted to fly in the first place; or, when in Europe, the CDC might have provided a speedier solution to get him back to the US so that he wouldn’t have taken matters into his own hands. This doesn’t excuse his actions, but the officials may have been able to avert this problem.

    In so many ways, the officials failed. They failed to avert this problem; customs let the man back into the US; and then officials leaked his name improperly. It all strikes me as inept and unprofessional.