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First Case of Highly Resistant TB Seen in U.S.




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It started with a cough, a cool-season hack that refused to go away.

Then came the fevers. They bathed and chilled the skinny frame of Oswaldo Juarez, a 19-year-old Peruvian visiting to study English. His lungs clattered, his chest tightened and he ached with every gasp. During a wheezing fit at 4 a.m., Juarez felt a warm knot rise from his throat. He ran to the bathroom sink and spewed a mouthful of blood.

I’m dying, he told himself, “because when you cough blood, it’s something really bad.”

It was really bad, and not just for him.

Doctors say Juarez’s incessant hack was a sign of what they have both dreaded and expected for years — this country’s first case of a contagious, aggressive, especially drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. The Associated Press learned of his case, which until now has not been made public, as part of a six-month look at the soaring global challenge of drug resistance.

Juarez’s strain — so-called extremely drug-resistant (XXDR) TB — has never before been seen in the United States, according to Dr. David Ashkin, one of the nation’s leading experts on tuberculosis. XXDR tuberculosis is so rare that only a handful of other people in the world are thought to have had it.

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