A woman diagnosed with a severe type of tuberculosis (TB) is currently being treated in Maryland. The said form of TB known as extensively drug-resistant TB or XDR-TB, is not curable by ordinary medicines and may be fatal. The federal and state sectors are now working to find other people who may have contracted the disease from the patient.

The woman travelled to the US from India in April. She arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, then travelled to Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois before going back to Chicago to seek for medical consult. It took the woman a total of seven weeks to have herself checked after her arrival in the US.

The suburban Chicago hospital assessed and subsequently admitted the patient in an isolation room with a diagnosis of XDR-TB. The woman was then transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday, June 5, 2015, via special ground and air ambulances. She is presently staying in an isolation room that is "specifically designed for handling patients with respiratory infections, including XDR-TB," NIH says in a statement. The said room is equipped with a device that helps to prevent the spread of pathogens outside of the room through an air flow control technology.

"The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, is providing care and treatment for the patient in connection with an existing NIH clinical protocol for treating TB, including XDR forms," the NIH states. "NIAID has treated other XDR-TB patients in the past under this protocol."

Both NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Development (CDC) are investigating the medications that can possibly help the patient.

"Besides concerns about community contacts, the patient flew from India to the United States," the CDC says. "CDC will obtain the passenger manifest for that 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."

TB becomes communicable when the bacteria that cause the disease travels through the air and is inhaled by another person. The most common organs affected by the bacteria are the lungs, but it can also hit the kidneys, bones and brain. TB is usually harder to treat than other infectious diseases, and it takes six to nine months to complete an entire treatment regimen. XDR-TB is even worse than ordinary types of TB, with only 30-50 percent of cases cured, compared to the latter, which almost always yield a positive response to treatment.

Photo: Yale Rosen | Flickr

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