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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Report on TB Case Cites Significant Security
Eileen Sullivan
September 10, 2007
Associated Press (09.09.07) - Monday, September 10, 2007

A congressional report, set to be released Monday, finds that gaps in security measures led to the May incident in which a man with tuberculosis freely left and re-entered the United States despite public health warnings. Democratic staff prepared the report for the House Homeland Security Committee; an advance copy was obtained by the Associated Press (AP).

"How we address these gaps now will serve as a direct predictor of how well we will handle future events, especially those involving emerging, re-emerging, and pandemic infectious diseases," the report states, according to AP.

In May, public health officials warned Atlanta attorney Andrew Speaker, who had TB, against overseas travel. Nonetheless, Speaker flew from Atlanta to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon.

CDC determined it lacked the equipment to safely transport Speaker back to the United States on a flight lasting longer than eight hours. There was a four-hour delay between CDC's request to place Speaker on a no-flight list and its fulfillment by the Transportation Security Administration. Despite alerting Customs and Border Patrol officials to stop Speaker at the US border, agents allowed Speaker to pass freely into the country from Canada.

"This was a real-world incident and there was a breakdown at the intersection of homeland security and public health," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). "The government had numerous plans and policies in place to secure our communities, but they just didn't follow the playbook." "Preparedness is a process and not an event," said Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesperson. The agency is completing a review of its response and is continuing to learn from the incident, Skinner said.

A House Homeland Security subcommittee plans to conduct a hearing this month to further address these issues.