Saturday, June 02, 2007

Robin Cook, where are you?

It reads like a Robin Cook medical thriller. Man with serious infectious disease defies his government and endangers innocent travellers in his desperate bid to slip back home under the radar.
But it is not fiction.

There are many questions we want to ask about Andrew Speaker and his rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis - the very variant which engages his new father-in-law in clinical research. Where and how did he contract this treatment-resistant illness? The microbiologist father-in-law, Robert Cooksey, has been facing news cameras, saying it has nothing to do with him or his work. But, what a co-incidence!

Speaker just married the doctor's daughter in Greece, we understand, and went on honeymoon in the Greek Islands, Italy and as yet unnamed other European countries. It was while he was out of the US that the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention notified him of the exceptionally dangerous nature of his disease and instructed him not to take commercial transport. So what did Speaker do? He jumped on commercial transport. Lots - some six planes. To escape detection by US authorities, he took a Czech air service and flew to Montreal whence he drove into the US. The border guard who ignored the warnings for apprehension and quarantine which popped up on his computer now has been taken off the job.

Speaker's fellow passengers on the trans-Atlantic flight have been sought for testing. There are hundreds of them. But that is just a tip of the iceberg of possible infection. How many people were crammed in airport cattle-grid queues with him, dined in cafes beside him, inherited a hotel room from him, sat in front of him in a cinema...?
One reels at the potential contact one man could have as he moved around popular tourist spots and through airports.
It is the nightmare we all have, most especially in the cramped confines of air travel. I always come down with something after a long-haul flight - and I have written about this issue many times before. It long has worried me.

Of course, one sympathises with Speaker. One would not want to be in his shoes. He must have been very frightened - but only for himself.

How deeply ironic. Speaker should have been more conscious of his culpability than most. He is a personal injury lawyer.

He is a personal injury lawyer who may be having a lot to do with other personal injury lawyers.
Meanwhile, the his law firm's website is down. Too many hits or deep embarrassment?

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