SAN FRANCISCO – Health officials were searching Monday for dozens of airline passengers who may have come in contact with a 30-year-old woman infected with a hard-to-treat form of tuberculosis on a flight from India.
The 30-year-old woman, who authorities declined to identify, was being treated at a Bay Area hospital. Officials said the chances that she had infected anyone else were minimal.
The woman arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 13 aboard an American Airlines flight that she boarded in New Delhi. The flight stopped in Chicago before continuing to San Francisco International.
"She did have symptoms on the flight," said Santa Clara County Health Director Dr. Marty Fenstersheib. "She was coughing."
Health officials said she was diagnosed with TB in India, but boarded the flight anyway. Such passengers are typically barred from boarding flights originating in the United States, but U.S. officials have little authority over who boards incoming international flights.
About a week after the flight landed, the woman showed up at the Stanford Hospital emergency room with advanced symptoms of the disease. Hospital spokesman Gary Migdol said the woman is in isolation and is in stable condition.
The woman will remain hospitalized until she tests negative for the disease, which will take at least two weeks, Fenstersheib said. Her stay could last longer because she has a strain of the disease that resists the most common antibiotics, he said.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking health authorities in 17 states to contact 44 people who sat within two rows of the woman and urge them get checked for tuberculosis. The risk of infection is far lower than passing on influenza or the common cold, doctors said.
"TB requires pretty constant contact with someone," Fenstersheib said. About 1 percent to 2 percent of all tuberculosis cases are of the multi-drug resistant variety, he said.
CDC spokeswoman Shelly Diaz said the agency has not received any reports back. Diaz said it will take more than eight weeks to receive definitive results.
In May, a TB patient caused an international health scare when he flew to Europe for his wedding. There has been no evidence that the man spread the disease.