A woman has been arrested in Washington state after authorities said she refused to seek treatment for tuberculosis for more than a year.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said in a statement on Thursday that the woman, who was not identified, was taken to the Pierce County Jail where she will be housed in a room specially equipped for isolation, testing and treatment. The department thanked the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and deputies for their role in the “necessary intervention.”
“We are hopeful she will choose to get the life-saving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis,” the department said.
The department said months ago that the woman had refused to take the life-saving medication that she needs and did not stay in isolation. It said officials had worked with her family and community members for more than a year to try to persuade her to get treatment, but they turned to their “last option” of having an arrest warrant be issued for the woman.
A judge held the woman in civil contempt for violating his order that she take medication or go into isolation and issued the arrest warrant for her to be taken into custody on or after March 3.
The department said this case marks only the third time in the past 20 years that it needed to seek a court order to detain a potentially contagious patient who refused to see treatment. It said people can die from tuberculosis if they do not get treatment, and they can unnecessarily expose others to the disease.
Law enforcement officials did not immediately detain the woman after the warrant was issued, but they eventually arrested her Thursday.
“When we face challenges with a person who does not want to take medication or isolate, we connect with family members, friends, and people in their community to help. We work to remove any barriers that may be in the way of them getting the treatment they need,” the statement said.
“When these options don’t work, the Health Department has an obligation to the community and the legal authority to seek a court order to persuade patients to comply,” the department continued.