BETHESDA, Md. (WJZ) — A woman with a rare type of drug resistant tuberculosis is being treated in Maryland.

Mary Bubala with the latest developments.

The patient is inside the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, as federal officials try to track down hundreds of people who may have had contact with her.

The female patient with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis traveled from India to the U.S. through Chicago O’Hare Airport, arriving on April 4. She was diagnosed with the disease in India a few years ago.

“It became clear when they examined the bacteria that despite the fact that she had been and was being treated, that in fact the microbe was resistant,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH.

One problem–she didn’t seek treatment until seven weeks after arriving in the U.S. Once she landed in Chicago, she traveled to Missouri and Tennessee before returning to Illinois for evaluation.

Since T.B. is spread through the air, health officials are contacting fellow passengers from her flight.

“The risk is increased by the duration of the flight and by the proximity to the person in the plane,” said Dr. Fauci.

There are about 200 times more cases of active tuberculosis in India than in the United States.

In 2013, there were 2.6 million tuberculosis cases there compared to 13,000 in the U.S., where treatment success was 60 percent in 2011 compared to 22 percent worldwide.

The CDC says people with active tuberculosis are not supposed to fly, so health officials are investigating whether those in India knew the woman was sick before allowing her to board the plane.

The NIH has started to treat the patient, but it’s too early to know which combination of drugs will be effective.


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