An infected woman wanted by police for refusing to isolate or treat tuberculosis (TB) has been caught breaking the rules – by riding a public bus and hanging out at a casino.
The patient from Tacoma, WA, has refused to isolate or take medication since he was diagnosed with a H. pylori infection more than a year ago.
The woman, who was deemed a risk to public safety by a judge and will be isolated and treated against her will, was spotted by an officer watching her home while disembarking at a casino last month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is the leading infectious disease killer in the world, claiming 1.5 million lives annually. However, the vast majority of cases can be easily treated with medication.
Laws that allow courts to order someone to stay home or isolate from others after deeming them a public health risk are on the books in 38 US states, including three of the most populous in California, Texas and New York (RED)
Tuberculosis deaths have decreased significantly over the past three decades. Their numbers have dropped from about 1,800 in 1993 to about 600 in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
A warrant was issued for her arrest and involuntary detention in the Pierce County Jail on March 2.
According to an April 3 court filing that I have seen Tacoma News TribuneCorrections Chief Patricia Jackson said she had “directed an officer to monitor the defendant to determine her habits in order to safely enforce the warrant.”
The request stated that the officer “observed an individual believed to be the defendant leaving his residence, boarding a city bus, and arriving at a local casino.”
If caught, she would face detention in the Pierce County Jail.
In the days that followed, she added, “the officer continued to watch only to find that the defendant was not home.”
The woman was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 2022, after she was reportedly a passenger in a car accident and went to the emergency room with chest pains.
X-rays showed progression of tuberculosis. She had also tested positive for Covid.
And she issued her first order of isolation in the middle of last January and more than 20 orders since then, until the issuance of a contempt and arrest order last month.
The March order called for her to be held in the Pierce County Jail to undergo testing and treatment for tuberculosis, until medical examinations showed “she was no longer a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.”
Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that usually affects the lungs and spreads through prolonged exposure to others.
The BCG vaccine provides up to 80 percent protection in infants and young children, but the vaccine is less effective against tuberculosis in the lungs in adults.
The BCG vaccine is not widely used in America and does not prevent infection.
Symptoms depend on where in the body the TB bacteria grow but include chest pain, loss of appetite, chills and fever.
It spreads when someone with pulmonary TB coughs, talks or sings, but you would have to spend several hours in close contact to catch it.
The death rate from tuberculosis was 0.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, 13 percent more than the rate in 2019.
Treatment includes a three- to nine-month course of the antibiotics isoniazid and rifampicin. Depending on the type and severity of the infection, medications may be used anywhere from daily to weekly.
Documents filed early in the case date stated that the woman had begun, but not completed, prescribed treatment for tuberculosis.
Officials fear that a woman’s refusal to segregate could endanger the rest of society.
At the most recent hearing on April 5, Nigel Turner, director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said the case would be transferred to the Pierce County Sheriff to arrange the detention of the individual.
The next court session is scheduled for May 19.