State Never Planned to Announce Escape of TB Patient

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A top state health official says the escape from isolation of a man infected with tuberculosis would not normally have been disclosed publicly.  Doctor Joe Bates, deputy state health officer, said yesterday that such an occurence was rare and the Health Dept. doesn't have a standard procedure for it.  But he said it's always worked just to find the person and get them under treatment, without raising public concerns.

Authorities say 50-year-old Franklin Greenwood escaped from his third-story room at UAMS on July 1, breaking a window to get out.  He fled two days after the state obtained an court order forcing him into medical isolation.  But not until yesterday, when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Greenwood's escape, did the public become aware of the case.

Bates, however, downplayed the dangers.  He said Greenwood escaped before officials could run definitive tests to see if his TB was communicable.  According to Bates, TB is not nearly as communicable as many other diseases, like chicken pox, measles, and the common cold.  He said it takes indoor exposure like living in a family situation for several days or weeks to produce an infection.  Bates said an hour or two exposure indoors is a very low risk and an outdoor exposure is almost a zero risk.  So he said people really shouldn't be concerned about Greenwood.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)