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Consumption Junction

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Denver, it seems, is the hot destination for drug-resistant tuberculosis patients. Andrew Speaker, the infected Atlanta lawyer who traveled to Europe for his honeymoon, landed in Cow Town for treatment in late May. Yesterday he was joined by Robert Daniels, a Russian native who was relocated from his Phoenix hospital.

But Denver has long served the TB crowd. At the turn of the last century, hundreds of infected people left New York’s garment district for Colorado’s arid and sunny climate. Open-air porches (still seen in Denver today) popped up throughout the city as in-home clinics. National Jewish, where Speaker — and now Daniels — received treatment, was conceived as a TB hospital for indigent folks. Back then, TB sufferers were jailed when they couldn’t afford hospitalization.

Today … well, that hasn’t entirely changed. Daniels came to Denver from a hospital in Maricopa County, Arizona, where he was held under court order in a wing reserved for sick criminals. But Daniels’ offense was nothing more than carrying the disease itself, which branded him as a threat to public health. According to a recent National Public Radio report, the sick man was held in a room without fresh air (oddly enough, conditions long thought requisite to help cure TB) and he didn’t shower for months. The American Civil Liberties Union took Daniels’ case to demand better treatment for him, saying the patient was under 24-hour surveillance with a light constantly on, and that his mail was routinely opened.

Though Daniels has been transferred to Denver, his days as a TB offender aren’t necessarily over. According to yesterday’s Denver Post article, Daniels will have a security guard outside of his new hospital room. What’s more, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio still has his eye on Daniels. Arpaio, notorious for dressing inmates in pink underwear and forcing them to sleep in tents, says he’s investigating Daniels to see if he endangered others by shirking instructions to wear a hospital mask. No word yet as to whether Daniels’ National Jewish stay will include handcuffs. --Naomi Zeveloff

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