A woman in Washington state who refused a judge’s order to isolate or have treatment for infectious tuberculosis for over a year was taken into custody on Thursday, New York Times reported. The arrest comes almost three months after a civil arrest warrant was issued for her.
The woman’s name has been withheld by health officials and was identified in the court papers by the initials VN.
In a statement on Thursday, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said that the woman was taken to the Pierce County Jail where she will be housed in a room ”specially equipped for isolation, testing, and treatment.”
“We are hopeful she will choose to get the lifesaving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis,” the statement said.
The health department initially ordered the woman to isolate in January 2022 after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, as per the Independent. The officials worked with her family and community members for more than a year to try to persuade her to get treatment, but she refused to comply. In March 2023, the county was granted a civil arrest warrant to forcibly detain her.
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 is not clear why the woman refused to isolate or receive treatment, Washington Post said. However, her lawyer Sarah Tofflemire claimed in a filing that the woman refused treatment as she doesn’t understand what is happening, as per NBC News.
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.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that spreads to anyone who is in close contact with a patient, like family members or friends. It is considered potentially fatal. Tuberculosis treatment takes three to nine months, according to Centres for Disease Control (CDC).