DENVER – The man quarantined for a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis settled in Saturday for what could be a two-month hospital stay by taking antibiotics and fielding phone calls.
Andrew Speaker, the first person placed under federal quarantine since 1963, had breakfast and spent much of the day on the phone with well-wishers, his nurses at National Jewish Medical and Research Center reported.
Speaker has said he, his doctors and the CDC all knew he had TB that was resistant to some drugs before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon. But he said he was advised at the time by Fulton County, Georgia, health authorities that he was not contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials told him they would prefer he did not fly, but no one ordered him not to, he said.
Accompanied by his new bride on Saturday, the 31-year-old Georgia attorney used a laptop to communicate from his second-floor isolation room, equipped with an exercise bicycle and a TV, hospital spokeswoman Geri Reinardy said.
Speaker was taking antibiotics to battle a tennis ball-sized infection in his lung, Reinardy said. Doctors said his treatment could include surgery to remove the infected tissue if the drugs do not work.
Tests so far indicate Speaker's risk of spreading the infection are low, doctors said. No medical briefings for the news media were planned during the weekend.
Doctors hope to determine where Speaker contracted the disease, which has been found around the world and exists in pockets in Russia and Asia. The tuberculosis was discovered when Speaker had a chest X-ray in January for a rib injury.
Some hospital staff marveled at the attention the case has generated, Reinardy said.
"It's just another day in the life of National Jewish," she said. "When I go over to his floor the nurses say, 'What's the big deal? We deal with this all the time."'
Since 2000, National Jewish has successfully treated two other patients with extremely drug-resistant strains of TB, known as XDR. Dr. Gwen Huitt said they were under quarantine in their home counties, then placed under quarantine in Denver once they arrived at National Jewish, driven there nonstop by family members.
On Friday, Speaker repeatedly apologized to the dozens of airline passengers and crew members he may have exposed while on a trans-Atlantic flight last month.
Speaker was in Europe when he learned tests showed he had not just TB, but XDR.
Despite warnings from federal health officials not to board another long flight, he flew back for treatment, fearing he would not survive if he did not reach the United States, he has said. He said he tried to sneak home by way of Canada instead of flying directly into the U.S.
He was quarantined May 25, a day after he was allowed to pass through the border crossing at Champlain, New York, along the Canadian border.
Health officials have contacted 74 of the 310 U.S. citizens who were on the May 12 flight from Atlanta to Paris, according to the CDC. That count includes all 26 who sat in the five-row area around Speaker — the ones considered at greatest risk.
CDC spokeswoman Shelly Diaz said Saturday there was no update on efforts to reach more passengers.