April 25, 2024
A Tacoma woman with tuberculosis (TB) will have one final chance in a court hearing tomorrow to agree to receive treatment — or be arrested.

A Tacoma woman with tuberculosis (TB) will have one final chance in a court hearing Thursday to agree to receive treatment — or be arrested.
A Pierce County judge issued a warrant for civil arrest to take place on or after Friday if the woman does not comply with court orders to take antibiotics against TB.
She could still decide to take the required treatment at a Thursday court hearing.
Pierce Co. judge orders arrest of woman with tuberculosis if left untreated
“This is an opportunity for the judge to clearly have the information presented and to see if there’s anything new that comes up. This is an opportunity for the person to comply with the requirements,” said Nigel Turner, division director of Communicable Disease Control at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “And hopefully, we could avoid this [arrest].”
This will be the 17th court hearing for the woman. Turner said she has been refusing treatment for more than a year — and TB is a disease that can stay in a person’s body for several years when left untreated, if it does not kill the person first. It is not clear why she is refusing treatment.
“Detention at this stage is, unfortunately, our last resort,” he said.
If it comes to that, she would likely be arrested on Friday.
“This next order is a warrant for arrest and detention. And in that end, we work with law enforcement — the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department — to detain and transport the person to detention,” Turner explained.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department told KIRO Newsradio it will help in any way if called upon to do so. The department said an isolation facility at the jail was already set up for the woman’s use.
“This is isolation, forced isolation,” Turner said.
The health department cannot force a person to take medication against their will, but it does have the legal authority to force a person to isolate so they do not infect others.
The woman would still have the option to choose treatment and get out of isolation early at any point.
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Turner could not say how long she would be in jail, but he did note that they would keep her for “no longer than absolutely the minimum necessary.”
“This is very rare for us,” Turner said. “It’s only very occasionally that people are not compliant — about three times in the last 20 years.”
The CDC’s website said that it can take several months to treat TB with antibiotics, but a person may stop being contagious after just a few weeks on the medications.
The health department does not believe the woman is a significant threat to the community. Unlike COVID, TB is not passed casually between people; it requires extended contact in an enclosed space. Still, Turner noted that TB is a very serious and fatal disease, and this woman has the potential to infect close contacts if she remains untreated.
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