Image of XDR TB bacteria courtesy of World Lung Foundation
(Atlanta) The United States has made the unusual decision to isolate a traveler who may have exposed fellow passengers and crew on two May trans-Atlantic flights to a tuberculosis strain that is especially difficult to treat.
This was the first time the US government has issued such an isolation order since 1963, when quarantined a smallpox patient, according to a press release from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"In this case, the infected patient traveled on two trans-Atlantic air flights and, in doing so, may have exposed passengers and crew to XDR-TB," the agency said. "A federal quarantine order has been issued and CDC is currently collaborating with U.S., state and local health departments, international ministries of health, the airline industry, and WHO (World Health Organization)."
The patient, a US citizen from the state of Georgia, is suffering from the drug-resistant form of TB known as XDR TB. This strain resists virtually all antibiotics, and because XDR-TB is resistant to first- and second-line drugs, treatment options are quite limited for patients with the disease.
The infected patient flew to Europe via Air France Flight 385, departing from Atlanta on May 12 and arriving in Paris on May 13. The as-yet unidentified man returned to North America on May 24 aboard Czech Air Flight 0104 from Prague to Montreal, and then drove into the United States.
The CDC is recommending that crew and passengers seated in near the patient aboard any of the named flights be evaluated for TB infection.
While considred relatively rare, XDR TB has infected at least one half million patients worldwide, acording to WHO. Only 49 XDR TB cases have been reported in the United States between 1993 and 2006, and 17 of those have been diagnosed since 2000.
Approximately two million people die from all forms of tuberculosis each year.