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Andrew Speaker Sues CDC Over Handling of '07 TB Scare

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By David Goguen on April 30, 2009 7:57 AM

An Atlanta attorney whose tuberculosis sickness prompted a very public health scare in 2007 has sued federal health officials for invasion of privacy, claiming that the release of personal information damaged his reputation, his livelihood, and his marriage.  

In May 2007, Andrew Speaker took a well-publicized trip to Greece for his wedding, despite having been diagnosed with a particularly drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a press conference on May 29, 2007 "stating a patient with a rare form of tuberculosis, extensively drug-resistant TB which often proves fatal, had taken an international flight," according to CNN.

What the CDC did not say in that press conference, according to Speaker's lawsuit, is that "the organization told Speaker that he was not contagious and that the CDC knew Speaker had planned to take the trip to Greece for his wedding," CNN reports.

The lawsuit filed this week claims that the CDC violated Speaker's legal rights by releasing extensive personal information about him -- including the trip to Greece, the fact that he was getting married, his occupation, and his identity -- "none of which needed to be released to the general public in order to accomplish any legitimate public health purpose," according to CNN.  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that, when Speaker returned to the U.S. after his wedding, the CDC placed him under a federal isolation order, something the health agency hadn't done in 40 years, although it was later determined that Speaker had a more treatable form of TB. Speaker underwent lung surgery but has since made a full recovery, according to the Journal-Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, seeks damages in an unspecified dollar amount.