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American Who Exposed Air Passengers to Drug Resistant TB Quarantined

Drug-resistant tuberculosis may be the disease generally identified with the third world and the poor. But it is spreading its tentacles everywhere. US authorities fear that an American might have exposed fellow air passengers on two transatlantic flights this month to the potentially lethal disease. The man has since been quarantined.

Now they authorities are looking for travelers who were aboard Air France flight 385, which left Atlanta for Paris on May 12, and Czech Air flight 0104, which arrived in Montreal from Prague on May 24. Passengers may need to be tested for the infection, the officials said.

The infected man may have exposed other travelers to a strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, a lung disease that doesn't respond to most available treatments, Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press conference in Atlanta.

"We felt it was our responsibility to err on the side of abundant caution and issue the isolation order," to minimize the chances the disease will spread, she said. The CDC is working with state and local health departments, the airline industry, international health ministries and the World Health Organization to track down patients, Gerberding said.

The authorities seek to determine where all the passengers on the flight originated, so they can be notified. How many countries are involved still isn't known, Gerberding said. The man is infected with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, which renders patients virtually untreatable, the officials said. About 49 cases of XDR-TB were reported to federal health officials from 1993 through 2006, and each cost about $500,000 to treat, the CDC said in March.

The disease is particularly threatening to people with damaged immune systems, such as AIDS patients, Gerberding said. While many people are infected with tuberculosis have no symptoms, AIDS allo
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