TB Flier Illustrates Quarantine Limits

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

TB Flier Illustrates Quarantine Limits


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Legal scholars say the case of a globe-trotting man infected with tuberculosis shows that quarantine laws are in need of an update, while federal authorities say they will examine whether more power is needed to stop an sick person from leaving the U.S.

The legal and policy implications of the case don't stop there, however. Lawsuits against the infected man - 31-year-old Andrew Speaker - are possible if other passengers test positive for the illness, some legal scholars said. And the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing tomorrow to examine, among other things, why the Border Patrol failed to stop Mr. Speaker from returning to the United States from Canada.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Saturday that current quarantine laws focus on sick people who are moving from state to state and "were not exactly invented in an environment where we were dealing with international transfers," such as the case of Mr. Speaker, who caused trans-Atlantic drama by traveling abroad for his wedding after the TB was diagnosed. He is cooperating with authorities and being treated in Denver, while the CDC tests dozens of people who were on lengthy flights with him.

"We are looking at the current statutes with perspective to determine if we need additional statutory authority to deal with a person who wants to leave the country as opposed to someone who wants to move from state to state," Dr. Gerberding said.

Larry Gostin, who specializes in health law at Georgetown University, said that many state quarantine laws are "antiquated" and that the federal quarantine law, which dates back to 1948, doesn't afford the person a hearing and could be ruled unconstitutional if challenged.

"From the federal situation, it's as bad if not worse," said Mr. …

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