An infectious woman who refused to isolate or get treated for tuberculosis (TB) for more than a year has finally been arrested.
The patient, who has not been named, was taken into custody in Tacoma, Washington state, last week and will remain in Pierce County jail for 45 days.
Officials hope to persuade her to receive treatment because she must give consent.
The woman was deemed a public health and safety risk by a judge in March after repeatedly refusing to quarantine. She was spotted defying court orders in one instance by riding a bus and hanging out in a casino.
Tuberculosis — one of the world’s most infectious and deadly diseases — can be easily passed on through coughs, sneezes, and even singing and laughter.
Patients who do not receive treatment can remain infectious for years, experts have said.
The patient from Tacoma, Washington state, had refused to isolate or take medication since being diagnosed with the contagious bacterial infection over a year ago
Laws allowing the courts to order a person to stay home or isolate from others after they are deemed a public health risk are on the books in 38 US states, including the three most populous – California, Texas and New York (red)
Deaths from tuberculosis dropped significantly over the past three decades. They have fallen from around 1,800 in 1993 to about 600 in 2020, the CDC reports, though they have now started to rise again
The woman was detained in her home on June 1 and booked into a negative pressure room in Pierce County Jail.
The room is specially equipped for isolation, testing and treatment to reduce the risk of transmission within the jail.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said in an update: ‘We are hopeful she will choose to get the life-saving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis.
‘Thank you to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the deputies who supported public health with this necessary intervention.’
It added: ‘We are working with her and her family to try to persuade her to get the treatment she needs to help cure the TB so she can protect herself and others.’
Nigel Turner, division director at the Pierce County Health Department, said it always looks for alternatives to detainment, but ‘in this case it wasn’t possible’.
Deputies took the woman into custody on Thursday after a judge issued a civil warrant detaining her for up to 45 days.
The woman was diagnosed with TB in January 2022, after reportedly being a passenger in a car crash and going to an emergency room with chest pains.
X-rays showed progressing TB. She had also tested positive for Covid.
She was given her first order to isolate in mid-January but refused and has received more than 20 orders since.
In March, she was found in contempt of court and an arrest warrant was issued.
The March order called for her to be detained in the Pierce County Jail to undergo testing and treatment for TB until medical tests show ‘she no longer presents a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare.’
In April, she was found in contempt of court for flouting quarantine orders for taking a city bus while positive for TB.
It was not clear why the woman refused to isolate, but in previous cases, this has been linked to personal beliefs or someone refusing to believe that they are infected.
TB is a bacterial infection that spreads through the air from person to person and usually affects the lungs. It can be dangerous and even deadly if left untreated.
BCG vaccination gives up to 80 percent protection in babies and young children, but the shot is less effective against TB in the lungs in adults.
The BCG vaccine is not used widely in America and does not prevent infection.
Symptoms depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing but include chest pain, no appetite, chills and fever.
It is spread when someone infected with TB of the lungs coughs, speaks or sings, but you would have to spend several hours in close contact to catch it.
According to the World Health Organization, about 45 percent of TB patients die without proper treatment. The TB mortality rate was 0.2 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2020, 13 percent higher than in 2019.
Treatment includes a three to nine-month course of antibiotics, isoniazid and rifampicin. Depending on the type and severity of the infection, the drugs can be used anywhere from daily to weekly.
Documents filed early in the case’s history stated that the woman began, but did not complete, prescribed treatment for tuberculosis.
Pierce County typically sees around 20 cases of active TB a year.
About 8,000 Americans are diagnosed with TB annually — although this figure continues to trend downwards amid vaccinations and treatments.