By Arul Louis
New York, Jun 10 (IANS): An Indian woman infected with a rare drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis has created a health scare in three US states and for people on her flight and is now being treated in a special isolation facility near Washington, health officials said on Tuesday.
The woman with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB) travelled from India to Chicago and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that as a precautionary measure it will be contacting people who may have come into contact with her on the plane.
The woman has not been identified in keeping with the patient privacy regulations.
Asked about the flight, CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner told IANS that the information was not available. "We likely wouldn't provide that to you even if we had it," he added. "We are able to get flight manifest and reach those who need to be reached. If for some reason we couldn't get flight manifest and we needed to reach people by going public with flight number we would."
Information about where she was from India was also not available.
CDC said, "The risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low,a¿ but public health officials sometimes need to alert travellers who may have been exposed to a sick passenger.
The woman, who arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport in April, visited Missouri and Tennessee before seeking medical treatment seven weeks after coming to the US, CDC said.
CDC said it is now working with the Illinois state Department of Health to identify people she may have been in contact with.
Based on her medical history and molecular testing, she was diagnosed with XDR TB, CDC said. She was placed in respiratory isolation at a suburban Chicago hospital and later transported by air ambulance to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Maryland, near Washington.
The National Institutes of Health said patient was in a "stable condition" at NIH Clinical Center in an isolation room in the specially designed for handling patients with respiratory infections like XDR TB.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is treating the patient under a NIH clinical protocol for treating TB, including XDR TB, NIH said.
XDR TB is a rare type of TB that is resistant to nearly all medicines used to treat the disease. (Technically, the CDC describes it as "resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs, that is, amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin".
Can XDR TB be treated and cured? Yes, in some cases. Some programmes have shown that cure is possible for an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of those affected. Successful treatment depends greatly on the extent of the drug resistance, the severity of the disease, whether the patient's immune system is weakened, and adherence to treatment, CDC says.
In some cases, doctors may also resort to surgery to deal with XDR TB.
What should I do if I have been around someone who has XDR TB? CDC avises that you contact your doctor or local health department about getting a TB skin test or blood test for TB infection. Tell the doctor or nurse when you spent time with this person and where the person with XDR TB is being treated.