A patient diagnosed with a rare, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has been taken to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland for treatment, and the government is urgently trying to identify people whom the patient may have exposed to the illness.
The patient traveled from India to Chicago's O'Hare Airport and spent time in Missouri and Tennessee before seeking treatment for "XDR-TB" and receiving a diagnosis seven weeks after arriving in the country, the CDC said. She was transferred to the NIH facility in Bethesda, Maryland via special air and ground ambulances.
"CDC will obtain the passenger manifest for [the India to Chicago] flight from the airline and will begin a contact investigation. Although the risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low, public health officers sometimes need to find and alert travelers who may have been exposed to an ill passenger," a spokesperson at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
Only about one third to half of XDR-TB cases have been cured and if the patient survives she may need months or even years of treatment. Cases of XDR-TB are very rare in the U.S. with only 63 cases reported between 1993 and 2011. People with H.I.V. infection or other infections that weaken the immune system are particularly vulnerable to this strain of TB.