But one thing really strikes me as too bizarre to be a coincidence, although some news stories are presenting it as such. Extreme drug resistant TB is pretty rare in the US. Studying drug resistant TB is also pretty rare among scientists. Yet the father in law of the man flying around the world with this TB is Robert C. Cooksey, a CDC researcher studying, among other things, drug resistant TB (e.g., here is a link to one of his review papers).
The CDC put out a press release implying that he could not have been the source of the infection. Interesting, the release seems to have been removed from the CDC site but can be found at the google cache. Here is the text of the release:
May 31, 2007
Contact: CDC Media Relations
Statement by Robert C. Cooksey
Research Microbiologist, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, CDC
First and foremost, I am concerned about the health and well being of my son-in-law and family, as well as the passengers on the affected flights.
I am the father-in-law of Andrew Speaker, who was recently publicly identified as a person infected with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. I do work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have worked at the CDC for 32 years. I´m a research microbiologist in CDC´s Division of Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination, and my work does involve working with a wide range of organisms, including TB. As a research microbiologist, my laboratory work involves identifying the characteristics and features of bacteria.
As part of my job, I am regularly tested for TB. I do not have TB, nor have I ever had TB. My son-in-law´s TB did not originate from myself or the CDC´s labs, which operate under the highest levels of biosecurity.
I wasn´t involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel, nor did I ever act as a CDC official or in an official CDC capacity with respect to any of the events of the past weeks.
As a parent, frequent traveler, and biologist, I well appreciate the potential harm that can be caused by diseases like TB. I would never knowingly put my daughter, friends or anyone else at risk from such a disease.
I would ask the media to respect my privacy and that of my family, and I will be respectfully declining all media requests. My thoughts and focus over the next few months will be with my family, and we are hopeful that Andrew will have a fast and successful recovery.
Robert C. Cooksey
I understand his request for privacy, but come on, his son in law apparently flew around the world with a horribly nasty, possibly contagious form of TB. And even if the authorities did not tell him he could not travel, there is no doubt this is something I want reporters looking into. It is entirely possible that it really is a coincidence (son in law having this TB and him working in a lab that probably studies this type of TB) but it is worth investigating this further.