Friday, June 01, 2007

Incredibly Stupid Statement of the Day, 06/01/07

Today's winner is Michael Seitzman, who's about to blow his stack over at the Huffington Post:

Every time I think about this guy getting on a plane carrying the most deadly form of tuberculosis known to man I only get angrier.

To clarify why this is an incredibly stupid statement, Seitzman is mad at the wrong guy -- Andrew Speaker, tuberculosis patient and world traveler.

Whom should Seitzman be pissed off at? The health departments of the city of Atlanta and DeKalb and/or Fowler counties, Georgia, and the Center for Disease Control.

Quick outline:

- Speaker was diagnosed with TB in January. So far as any news account has revealed, no quarantine actions were taken by his city or county health department, or by the CDC, at that time.

- In May, Speaker was preparing to travel to Europe for his wedding when he met with CDC officials who "advised him not to travel" but also made it clear that they were just covering their own asses and that he was not actually a transmission risk. That's Speaker's account, anyway -- an account he claims is backed up by a tape of the meeting, and that I find believable because if he had been a transmission risk, he'd have been quarantined ... right?

- So Speaker goes to France, gets married, parties in Greece and is honeymooning in Italy when CDC officials -- the people who didn't stop him from working as a lawyer in Atlanta, didn't stop him from shopping at malls in Atlanta, didn't confine him to his home or a TB ward in Atlanta, etc. -- suddenly decide that it's a matter of utmost urgency to strand him now that he's somewhere other than home.

Clarification is once again in order: The CDC didn't just tell Speaker not to fly commercially. When he offered to eschew commercial flights if the CDC would fly him home (yes, the CDC has jets sitting around waiting for this kind of thing), they said no (although they later claimed to have been considering that proposal, so far their record on this case doesn't make them very believable). Apparently Mike Leavitt's lobbying calendar is a higher priority than getting American citizens home safely after forbidding them to fly commercially.

I don't know if Seitzman has ever been involved in a "tuberculosis episode" before. I have. And it went exactly the opposite way. The patient (a fellow factory worker) was immediately quarantined, not given an "advisory, but we're just saying this so we don't get knocked." The patient's fellow workers, on the other hand (a number of whom, including myself, had spent considerable time in spaces much more enclosed than the passenger cabin of, say, a 737 with the patient), were told not to worry, that we didn't even need to be tested (the passengers on Speaker's flights are being tested). And this was for a patient with active/symptomatic/transmissible TB, unlike Speaker's so-far-asymptomatic case.

I'm not a big fan of "public health" agencies or the measures they're empowered to take (especially when CDC starts nonsense like trying to turn gun homicides into a "public health issue"). But this is a clear case of those agencies not taking the measures they're empowered to take, then trying to make one of the people who foots the bill for their budget pay for their failure by marooning him abroad, then blaming the victim.

In a word (okay, three words), fuck that noise. I'd have done the same thing Speaker did, and I bet that Seitzman would have too.

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