A globe-trotting Atlanta lawyer with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis was allowed back into the U.S. by a border inspector who disregarded a computer warning to stop him and don protective gear, officials said Thursday. The inspector has been removed from border duty.
The unidentified inspector explained that he was no doctor but that the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely “discretionary,” officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.
The patient was identified as Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer who returned last week from his wedding and honeymoon trip through Italy, the Greek isles and other spots in Europe. His new father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a CDC microbiologist whose specialty is TB and other bacteria.
Cooksey would not comment on whether he reported his son-in-law to federal health authorities. Nor did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain how the case came to their attention. However, Cooksey said that neither he nor his CDC laboratory was the source of his son-in-law’s TB.
Speaker is now under quarantine at a hospital in Denver. He is the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.
The disclosure that the patient is a lawyer _ and specifically a personal injury lawyer _ outraged many people on the Internet and elsewhere. Some travelers who flew on the same planes with Speaker angrily accused him of selfishly putting hundreds of people’s lives in danger.