Woman with tuberculosis is arrested for refusing to isolate for a year

Woman known only as ‘V.N.’ was placed in a specially-equipped detention room at the Pierce County Jail in Washington state three months after a judge issued a warrant for her arrest

Bevan Hurley
Sunday 04 June 2023 16:57 BST
Tuberculosis patient faces arrest for failing to comply with treatment

A Washington state woman who refused a judge’s order to isolate or have treatment for infectious tuberculosis has been arrested.

The woman, identified only as “V.N.” in court papers, was booked into a “negative pressure” room at the Pierce County Jail on Thursday, more than three months after a judge issued a rare civil arrest warrant, authorities said.

“She will be housed in a room specially equipped for isolation, testing and treatment,” the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said in a statement.

“We are hopeful she will choose to get the life-saving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis.”

Tuberculosis is a lung and throat disease that can easily spread where people gather in crowds or live in crowded conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The health department initially ordered the woman to isolate in January 2022 after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, the health department said.

Health officials in Pierce County said they had worked with the woman’s family for a year to persuade her to protect herself and avoid passing the disease to others.

After 15 court hearings to force her to comply, the county was granted a civil arrest warrant in March by Judge Philip Sorenson to forcibly detain her.

In a statement, Sergeant Darren Moss from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office told The Independent that the woman was taken into custody in her home without incident.

“The Sheriff’s department was responsible for detaining her, transporting her to the jail and holding her in a secure area that would not spread the disease and allows for her care and treatment,” Sgt Moss said.

“We have done that, everything else is on the courts and health department, so I can’t really comment too much on what else will happen from here.”

Under Washington state law, health providers are required to report cases and work with patients to make sure they get treatment to cure active cases of the disease.

It was just the third time in two decades that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department had sought such an order, they said in a statement.

“In each case like this, we are constantly balancing risk to the public and the civil liberties of the patient,” it said.

According to the World Health Organisation, tuberculosis was the 13th leading cause of death in the world in 2021 with 1.6 million fatalities. It was the second deadliest infectious disease after Covid-19.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 13 million people live with inactive TB.

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