June 6, 2007 - MARKEY QUESTIONS CDC ON CRITICAL WEAKNESSES EXPOSED BY TB CASE

WASHINGTON, DC -- Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, today sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raising several questions about public health protocols in the aftermath of the case of Andrew Speaker, the 31-year-old Georgia man with a rare and dangerous form of tuberculosis (TB) who caused a public health scare last week. Rep. Markey sent the letter as the Homeland Security Committee convened for an oversight hearing investigating the Speaker case and its implications for public health safety.
“The infection of Mr. Andrew Speaker with a dangerous, drug-resistant form of TB, and his subsequent international travel and return to the United States, have exposed dangerous weaknesses in the federal government’s ability to safeguard the public health. While this unfortunate incident does not appear to have resulted in the infection of any other individuals, it is a wake-up call that must be heeded,” said Rep. Markey.

Rep. Markey’s letter to Director Julie Gerberding of the CDC asks several pointed questions about Mr. Speaker’s case and the policies and procedures that the CDC has in place to safeguard the public from deadly strains of infectious disease, including:

• When it learned of Mr. Speaker’s diagnosis, whom did CDC notify, when and how?
• Did Mr. Speaker inform CDC or county health officials prior to his departure from the United States that it was his intention to travel overseas and how did the CDC respond?
• It has been reported that Mr. Speaker was placed on a no-fly list. Is this accurate? Please describe the actions taken, when they were taken and by which government entities, to effectuate Mr. Speaker’s placement on a no-fly list.
• It has been reported that Mr. Speaker, when he was in Rome, Italy was informed by U.S. government officials that his TB was a rare, extensively drug-resistant form, far more dangerous than previously known. Did CDC notify Mr. Speaker of this fact? Did CDC notify Italian officials of its determination that Mr. Speaker should not fly on commercial airlines due to his medical condition?
• If a pandemic involving avian influenza or another dangerous infectious disease were to occur in the United States, are the current CDC policies and procedures for response to such an outbreak effective and sufficient to minimize casualties? If modifications to CDC’s response plan could improve the effectiveness and reduce casualties in the event of a pandemic, when and how does CDC intend to adjust its response plan to improve its ability to respond to a pandemic?

“We need to promptly identify the breakdowns in this particular case and fix them immediately. With the potential for a terrorist attack involving a biological weapon or an avian influenza pandemic that could require far more coordination between public health and homeland security authorities, these efforts require urgency. I am pleased that Chairman Thompson convened today’s hearing into this matter and will be pressing the CDC increase their public health safeguards.”

Rep. Markey's letter to the CDC (pdf)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer (Markey)
202.225.2836