Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Atlanta Lawyer with DR-TB in Recovery

I found this in the Gainesville Times over the weekend written by Debbie GIlbert. It doesn't really focus on adherence, but it goes with my TB strand from before. The best adherence is the supervised therapy, but it only is the case with these types of diseases in the US.

Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta attorney who set off an international panic when he flew on commercial airplanes after being diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis, now is living in Hall County, at least temporarily. But health officials say there's no reason for local folks to worry.

"Patients with TB, once they're past the contagious stage, are not a threat to anyone's health," said Dave Palmer, spokesman for District 2 Public Health in Gainesville. "But if they quit taking the medication, it's possible for them to become contagious again."

Speaker spent two months at a Denver hospital, where he underwent surgery July 17 to remove an infected lobe of his lung. He was released from the hospital Thursday, with orders to take antibiotics for two years to eliminate the infection.

Because TB is so difficult to cure, public health rules require patients to undergo directly observed therapy. They must report to their local health department every day, where a staff member watches them take their medication.

Speaker took his first dose at the Hall County Health Department Friday morning. Palmer said Georgia law allows patients to be on a five-day dosing schedule so they don't have to take the medicine on weekends when the department is closed.

April Majors, spokeswoman for the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, has said Speaker eventually intends to return to Fulton County, where he would then report to the department there for treatment.

Speaker apparently is spending time in Hall while he continues to recuperate from his surgery. Palmer said he does not know how long Speaker plans to stay. Even if Palmer did know, he said federal privacy laws would prohibit him from disclosing any information.

Palmer added that he did not know whether the health department is taking any special precautions to prevent Speaker from being recognized, since images of the attorney have been widely circulated in the media.

Though Speaker may be one of the most famous patients the Hall County Health Department has ever had, Palmer said his treatment regimen is not unusual.

"We've had other TB patients in District 2 who needed supervised therapy," Palmer said.

In the 13 Northeast Georgia counties comprising District 2, there are currently six patients with active TB, he said.

Palmer said patient compliance is typically not a problem.

"Most people work with us because they want to get well," he said. "If they move to another county, they're pretty up-front about notifying us."

Because of the importance of nonstop treatment in TB cases, Palmer said health officials are vigilant about monitoring the patient's whereabouts.

"If the patient stops coming in for treatment, the staff tries to locate that person and will even go to their home if necessary," he said. "We try to make sure people are where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be."

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