TB Patient: "I'm Very Sorry"

Andrew Harley Speaker tb patient The Speaker Law Firm

The tuberculosis patient who sparked nationwide outrage after taking two trans-Atlantic flights despite warnings not to fly apologized for his actions, but said he felt "abandoned" by U.S. health officials.

"I'm very sorry for any grief or pain that I've caused anyone," Andrew Speaker, the 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer at the center of the health scare, said.

Speaker said none of his doctors, nor officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he was contagious or that anyone was at risk.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," from his hospital room in Denver, Speaker explained that flying overseas for his wedding and honeymoon, while not encouraged by health officials, was never forbidden.

"I hope they understand, that based on what I was told, I didn't think I was making that gamble," Speaker said.

"I've lived in this state of constant fear and anxiety for a week now, and to think that someone else now is feeling that, I wouldn't want anyone to feel that way.

"I don't expect those people to ever forgive me. I just hope they understand that I truly never meant them any harm," he said.

Jason Vik, one of the people Speaker put at risk, was glad to get the apology, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

"I'm very impressed with him, I'm glad he came out and apologized," he said.

Vik's tuberculosis test came back with no signs of bacteria in his system. Although he must be tested again in two months, he says it's a relief.

Speaker's father, also a lawyer, taped a meeting with the CDC prior to leaving for his honeymoon.

"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody, or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, we have to tell you that to cover ourself, but he's not a risk."

Speaker, his new wife and her 8-year-old daughter were already in Europe for the wedding when the CDC contacted him and told him to turn himself in immediately at a clinic there and not take another commercial flight.

Speaker said he felt as if the CDC had suddenly "abandoned him." He said he believed if he did not get back to a specialized clinic in Denver, he would die.

"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and that was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."

Additionally, Speaker, a personal injury attorney, could sue the federal government for being quarantined on the basis of federal regulations that some scholars see as unconstitutional.

Speaker will stay in a room with specially designed ventilation to prevent germs from escaping, and doctors will try as many as five different antibiotics first, reports Cobiella. If that doesn't work, they'll resort to surgery.

Speaker, however, could be sued by fellow airline passengers, especially if any caught the disease from him — which some legal scholars say is much more likely.

"He may be personally liable if someone contracts TB" from being near him on his recent flights to and from Europe, said Peter Jacobson, a University of Michigan professor of public health law. "I can see a jury coming down very hard on someone like that who willfully ignored advice not to travel."

He was quarantined May 25, a day after he was allowed to pass through the border crossing at Champlain, N.Y., along the Canadian border.

As a result, the U.S. border inspector who allowed Speaker back into the country, disregarding a computer warning to stop the man and don protective gear, has been removed from border duty, officials said Thursday.
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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