David Gartner

How To Confront the Dangers of Tuberculosis

The latest twist in the case of Andrew Speaker, the American lawyer now under quarantine because of his infection with drug resistant tuberculosis (TB), is that the border guard who let him back in the U.S. has retired. That's all well and good, but the reality is that the spread of dangerous drug resistant tuberculosis can't be stopped at the border. By obsessing on how Speaker got back into the United States, we are missing an important opportunity to confront the real dangers that TB poses to America and the world.

Andrew Speaker is just one of the billions of people walking around in the world infected with tuberculosis. Even the dangerous strain of TB that Speaker contracted already existed in the United States before his return. Fully one-third of people on the planet carry TB in their bodies, and 1.6 million people die each year from the disease. It is one of the leading killers of people living with HIV.

Tuberculosis is an ancient killer which has become even more dangerous in recent years. Evidence of TB has been found in Eqyptian mummies dating back 4,000 years. One hundred and twenty-five years ago the bacterium that causes TB was identified and drugs to treat TB have been available for over 50 years. As TB survivor Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

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