16/07/2024

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Arrest warrant issued for Tacoma woman refusing tuberculosis treatment

Arrest warrant issued for Tacoma woman refusing tuberculosis treatment

An arrest warrant has been issued for a woman in Tacoma who is refusing to get treatment for her tuberculosis. 

TB is curable with medication but if left untreated, results in death. People with active, untreated infections are contagious and represent a risk to others, according to the health department.  

Anyone exposed to a person with TB can become infected, but TB is not easily spread— you need to be in a closed space for an extended amount of time with the infected person.  

The health department has been working with the woman for over a year on isolating and getting treatment. They did not specify why she was refusing treatment. The patient is believed to be in her 70s. 

While TB is not easily spread, its considered enough of a threat to the public that the health department can enact its legal authority to seek a court order to get patients into treatment, though it’s rarely been done, Nigel Turner, the division director of Communicable Disease Control, told FOX 13 in January. 

Turner told FOX 13 that in the last 20 years, they’ve only had to turn to legal avenues three times. 

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“We are always hopeful that a patient will choose voluntary compliance in these situations and get the treatment needed to protect themselves and others. We will continue to work through the legal process and all options available,” the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said in a statement. 

The warrant issued for the woman said she started her treatment but left care before it was complete. 

Officials will execute the arrest warrant next month, according to documents filed. The woman will be detained in the Pierce County Jail for a period “not to exceed 45 days to undergo testing and treatment for active Tuberculosis and to continue such treatment until medical tests conclusively establish that she no longer presents a threat to public health, safety and welfare.”  

According to the Department of Health, TB treatment can take up to nine months. 

There are, on average, about 20 cases of active TB per year in Pierce County. These infections usually impact the lungs, but it can be found in other parts of the body. Active TB is not common in the United States. 

Symptoms of active TB

  • Unexplained cough for three or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Unexplained night sweats
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

For more information on the disease, and testing and treatment, click here.