American Culture

TB case: here’s the king-hell coincidence of the year so far

Well, what were the chances of this happening?

Odd twist in TB alert: Patient is TB researcher’s son-in-law
May 31, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – As information piled up in the case of a man with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis (TB) who took multiple international air trips, it was revealed today that he is a lawyer and the son-in-law of a microbiologist who studies TB at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The patient, who has extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB), was identified in news reports today as Andrew H. Speaker, 31, an Atlanta lawyer. This afternoon, the CDC issued a news release in which Robert C. Cooksey, a research microbiologist in the CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, announced that he is Speaker’s father-in-law and said Speaker did not contract TB from him or from CDC labs. (Story.)

So a guy somehow contracts a rare, nasty case of tuberculosis (only 49 recorded cases in 13 years, “resistant to the two most important first-line TB drugs [isoniazid and rifampin] and the two most important second-line drugs [a fluoroquinolone and an injectable agent—amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin], according to the CDC”). Loses his feckin’ mind and against all advice, orders and basic common sense decides to fly around the world to see how many others he can infect. Winds up as “the CDC’s first forcible isolation order since 1963.”

Now, of all the people in the entire world, his father-in-law turns out to be “a 32-year CDC veteran and studies a wide range of bacteria, including those that cause TB.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to stir anything up here. If the CDC says there’s no connection I believe them.

But…damn. What are the odds, Mr. Spock?

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