Pierce County woman with tuberculosis in custody, treatment optional

Jun 1, 2023, 1:07 PM | Updated: 3:54 pm

Pierce County tuberculosis...

A member of the medical staff clad in protective gear prepares to give an infant the Bacillus CalmetteGuérin (BCG) vaccine for tuberculosis at a community health centre in Banda Aceh on June 15, 2020. (Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP) (Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman with tuberculosis has reportedly been defying law enforcement orders for isolation, according to court documents, and is now in Pierce County Jail.

“Pierce County Deputies located and detained the woman Pierce County Superior court mandated to comply with Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department orders to isolate her,” Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said.

The woman has been refusing treatment for her TB for more than a year, and in March, an arrest warrant was issued. Officials said she will continue to be isolated until she accepts treatment for the TB or tests negative for the disease.

After 45 days, she must return to court where a judge will decide whether she will continue to be held.

Suits: You don’t have the freedom to walk around with tuberculosis

“The judge issued a warrant for civil arrest on or following Friday, March 3rd, for the woman to be taken to a specially designed facility at the Pierce County Jail for isolation testing and treatment,” said Pierce County Health Department Director Dr. Anthony Chen.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that spreads through the air, but not as easily as coronavirus, colds, or flu. Pierce County logs approximately 20 active cases of tuberculosis each year on average.

Tuberculosis infections usually affect the lungs but can happen in other parts of the body. If left untreated, it will result in death, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. People with active, untreated infections are contagious and represent a risk to the community. Tuberculosis is curable with medication.

“If you walk down the street or if you have a brief period in a room with a person with TB, you’re extremely unlikely to get infected with that type of brief exposure,” Dr. Thomas Hawn, director of the University of Washington’s TB research and training center, told KIRO Newsradio.

A Health Department spokesperson stated it is not clear why the woman is refusing treatment and testing.

In April, a Tacoma police officer reportedly saw her get on a city bus heading to a local casino.

The court order says she can be released when she is no longer a threat to the community.

The spokesperson told KIRO Newsradio that the woman is not believed to be a significant threat to the community.

“Most people we contact are happy to get the treatment they need,” said Nigel Turner, division director of Communicable Disease Control, in a prepared statement. “Occasionally people refuse treatment and isolation. When that happens, we take steps to help keep the community safe.”

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Pierce County woman with tuberculosis in custody, treatment optional