Tuberculosis Case Prompts Search for Patient’s Fellow Airline Passengers

The New York TImes

By DENISE GRADY

JUNE 8, 2015

Health officials are trying to identify people who may have come into contact with a woman who flew from India to Chicago in April and had a type of tuberculosis that is highly resistant to drug treatment.

The risk to the public is low, according to a statement issued Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Nonetheless, the agency said that it would obtain a flight manifest and notify other passengers.

The C.D.C. is also working with the Illinois health department to trace other potential contacts and determine whether they need TB tests. After arriving in Chicago, the woman traveled to Missouri and Tennessee and then returned to Chicago, where she sought treatment at a hospital about seven weeks after she had landed in the United States.

The hospital gave a diagnosis of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, and the woman was transported on Friday by special air and ground ambulances to a hospital at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She is in an isolation room “specifically designed for handling patients with respiratory infections, including XDR-TB,” according to a statement issued by the N.I.H.

The statement also said that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the N.I.H., “is providing care and treatment for the patient in connection with an existing N.I.H. clinical protocol for treating TB, including XDR forms.”

Compared with most other infectious diseases, even ordinary cases of TB are difficult to treat. Patients have to take several drugs for six to nine months. As its name implies, the extensively drug-resistant version is even worse. According to the C.D.C., only about 30 percent to 50 percent of XDR-TB cases are cured; ordinary forms can almost always be cured. XDR-TB is particularly dangerous for people with H.I.V. infections or other conditions that weaken the immune system.

The more common strains of TB can become drug resistant if patients miss doses of medicine or fail to finish a full course of treatment.

XDR-TB is rare in the United States. From 1993 to 2011, 63 cases were reported. Drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are more common in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa...