CDC Issues Isolation Order for Man with TB

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

In May 2007, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order to quarantine a man who flew on two transatlantic flights with a rare, dangerous form of tuberculosis and potentially exposed passengers and crew to the infection.

The Atlanta man was believed to be infected with the form of the tuberculosis bacteria known as "extensively drug-resistant" TB, abbreviated XDR TB. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, and the infection is spread via air droplets released during coughing, spitting, sneezing, or talking. XDR TB causes the same symptoms that a person would develop with TB. If TB disease is present, cough and fever would be the predominant symptoms. XDR TB is a rare form of the disease that is resistant to the drugs routinely used to treat tuberculosis infections and is extremely difficult to treat. The few treatment options available for XDR TB are less effective and associated with worse outcomes than traditional antibiotic therapies for TB. In 2006, there were two documented cases of XDR TB in the U.S.

Health authorities were aware of the man's condition and had warned the man against traveling, but he stated that compelling personal reasons led him to fly from Atlanta to Paris on May 13. On May 24, he returned to North America on a flight from Prague to Montreal and entered the U.S. by car. While it is not certain that passengers and crew on board the flights were infected, the CDC recommended that passengers and crew on those flights be tested for TB infection. Particularly those seated within two rows of the infected man are at greatest risk for infection.