Woman who refused TB treatment is in custody months after arrest warrant issued

A Washington state woman who repeatedly refused a judge’s orders to isolate or take tuberculosis medication was arrested on Thursday, more than three months after a rare warrant was issued. civil judgment, officials said.

The woman, identified in court documents as VN, was detained and placed in a “negative pressure” room at the Pierce County Jail, a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said.

The ward is specially equipped for isolation, testing and treatment, the Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health Department said in a statement.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington.  (Google Maps)

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington. (Google Maps)

Sheriff’s spokesman Darren Moss Jr. said the VN will not face criminal charges but has been ordered to remain in jail for at least 45 days.

“Depending on her treatment, she could leave early or stay later,” he said in an email.

Moss did not respond to questions about when the woman was taken into custody or where she was found.

“We hope she chooses to receive the life-saving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis,” the health department said in a statement that thanked sheriff’s deputies “who have supported public health with this necessary intervention. “.

VN’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Philip Sorensen first ordered VN’s involuntary detention on January 19, 2022, finding that health officials had made “reasonable efforts” to obtain voluntary compliance with the public health rules for tuberculosis, a deadly and contagious communicable disease and can spread through the air when people who have it cough or sneeze.

In February, public health officials said they visited Sorensen 16 times and asked him to enforce his detention order with a contempt warrant, a move the department called “the last appeal”. On February 24, Sorensen signed the warrant.

A corrections official said in a statement filed with the court that authorities began monitoring the VN in March to execute the warrant “in a safe manner.”

A deputy who was following VN watched her leave her home and board a city bus and head to a local casino, the official said. The deputy did not take her into custody; authorities declined to say why.

On May 19, after VN failed to show up for a court hearing, Sorensen again found her in contempt and said the warrant remained in effect.

Nearly 100,000 cases of tuberculosis were recorded each year in the United States in the early 1950s. By 2021, the number had fallen to 7,882, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pierce County receives about 20 active cases of the disease each year, according to the county health department.

CORRECTION (June 1, 2023, 11:55 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the judge in the case. He’s Philip Sorensen, not Sorenson.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

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