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28 from Alabama on flight with TB traveler

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Health departments across the state are working to contact 28 passengers from Alabama, including 15 from Birmingham, who were on the trans-Atlantic flight to Paris from Atlanta with Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta lawyer now known to have an extremely drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

Health officials said some haven't been located and are presumably still on vacation. The health departments are following the Centers for Disease Control's protocol to bring all passengers in for testing, but officials said the situation is not cause for great alarm.

"My expectation is that the risk is very, very low," said Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Charles Woernle. "TB as a rule is not very contagious... It takes repetitive, long exposure for persons to become infected."

An overseas airplane ride can provide such an exposure, but Speaker's TB isn't believed to be particularly contagious at this stage.

Woernle said Tuesday that state health officials previously thought 29 people from Alabama were affected, but due to a miscount it appeared that only 28 were. He said health officials were still fielding calls from people who say they flew on flights with Speaker but were not listed on the manifest the state received from CDC.

"At this point we're still trying to track everyone down and finalize everything," he said.

Officials said there were 15 people from Birmingham on the Atlanta-to-Paris flight.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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