Son of a “B___!” Talk about a made for TV conspiracy movie, or an intriguing marketing idea to quickly build up business for a law firm, I give you Andrew Speaker; the “Typhoid Mary” of 2007. Your mind could go wild with this one, but it really doesn’t have to. Here’s the set-up:

A handsome, well-to-do and gregarious young couple gets married stateside jetting bon voyage by the well-wishers attending their reception, off to enjoy a storybook honeymoon in the Greek Isles. The day had finally come, following one postponement after another. Typical of “on-the-rise” young professionals, finding time for the wedding had been tough, especially for the groom, a star law school graduate on the cusp of developing an equally stellar professional practice alongside his father. Putting the wedding on hold again was out of the question – but Andrew had a secret. The viral young lawyer was carrying a particularly virulent strain of Tuberculosis, or TB. Not fearing the worst, thanks to encouragement by his doctor, he can’t let this get in the way. Heck, he feels great, being in the best shape of his life, and a little TB wasn’t even interfering with his daily jogs. After all, one-third of the world carries the TB bacteria without problems, and is walking around doing just fine. Right? No, the wedding was definitely a “go.”


Andrew Speaker giving the winning opening argument for the University of Georgia law team at the ABA National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition in 2003.

Now, our story and the “secret” gets complicated. A classic,“What did you know, and when did you know it?” You see, Andrew’s “little case” of TB carries a bad prognosis; likely death, as it is a multi-drug resistant strain, and there are no known effective vaccines for the world’s adult population.

This is the point where your questioning mind and imagination have a head-on collision with the facts. Terrorists? Spies? Brain-washed doctors and border guards? Hollywood, book deals, or big pay-offs? Who knows, but for now maybe the answer lies in a combination of stupidity, selfishness and really bad communication. Some consolation, as either way, exploring questions leads to one serious answer; dead is dead. Not a lot of thrill in this potential ending.

Our patient was identified today as Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer who returned last week from his wedding and honeymoon trip through Italy, the Greek isles and other spots in Europe. His new father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a long-time CDC microbiologist whose specialty is TB and other bacteria. Huh? Is that your jaw on the floor? A personal injury lawyer running around the world with a highly communicable disease? Don’t those guys kinda specialize in cases involving reckless endangerment? And, whoa, the father-in-law is, what?

Now you question, outside of the sanity of Andrew Speaker and Robert Cooksey, where were the doctors, the CDC, Homeland Security, the WHO, the CIA, FBI, airline security, and whoever else is supposed to be protecting us from this type of pandemic? TB, regardless of the strains severity, doesn’t just sort of come on like a stress headache. At least Andrew and his doctor were long well aware he had TB, and there was time to react. Although only discovered today, and poorly constructed as events are still falling into place, consider Andrew’s travel schedule, as we think we know:

He flew to Paris on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385, also listed as Delta Air Lines codeshare Flight 8517. He and his bride then took four more flights within Europe, flying from Paris to Athens on May 14; from Athens to Thira Island on May 16; from Mykonos Island to Athens on May 21; and from Athens to Rome also on May 21. On May 24, Andrew flew from Rome to Prague on Czech Air Flight 0727. From Prague, the couple left for Montreal that day aboard Czech Air Flight 0104. From Montreal, they grabbed a rental car and headed across the border back into the United States. Notwithstanding the frequent-flier miles he racked-up (hope he lives to use them), imagine how many people were in contact, then changing planes and contacting others throughout the world.

Somebody has got a lot of explaining to do, to say the least. But you were warned. Well, sort of. Missed it? I did too, but I’m talking about the ABC TV movie; “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu In America.” The movie follows an outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus from its origins in a Hong Kong market through its mutation into a pandemic virus that becomes easily transmittable from human to human and spreads rapidly around the world. Interesting plot. Apparently, ABC must have done its homework well, as the United States Government dedicated web pages to it via PandemicFlu.Gov and AvianFlu.Gov, stating:

“The Department of Health and Human Services prepared a Viewer’s Guide and some anticipated Questions and Answers to provide factual information for viewers of the movie.” Of interesting note, in addition to English, translations of the content are available in Spanish, Chinese and Tieng Viet. This to me, alone, is spooky. While fingers start pointing and we pray for Andrew Speaker’s health over the next who knows how long, take a minute to read the site’s information. You will learn what to do, where to go, and even what groceries to stock-up on when a pandemic strikes. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to print a copy to put with your other emergency stuff. The link is HERE.

Phillipines Tuberculosis Animated Short