“We have worked with family and community members for over a year to do everything we can to persuade this woman to take her medication to protect herself and our community,” said Nigel Turner, Director of Communicable Diseases from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. control, in a press release.
Health officials took the matter to county court for the 16th time on February 24. or voluntarily self-isolate,” Turner said.
Sorenson’s warrant authorized law enforcement to detain the unidentified woman and transport her to a facility in Pierce County for isolation, testing and treatment. County health officials declined Saturday to confirm whether the woman had ever been detained.
“The defendant’s objections to the February 24, 2023 order are noted, retained, and deemed insufficient to vary the Court’s order,” Sorenson said, adding that those transporting her should be aware that they are handling “a patient with active tuberculosis and appropriate precautions should be taken.”
It is unclear why the woman, who is identified in court documents as VN, refused to self-isolate or receive treatment.
Sarah Tofflemire, the court-appointed defense attorney, told the Post that “since this is both a case involving confidential health care information and an ongoing case, I can’t provide any further comments.”
In court filings, Tofflemire said the woman “did not acknowledge the existence of her own medical condition,” the News Tribune reported. During the court proceedings, the woman spoke “out of turn with rapid and disorganized speech,” the filing added, according to the newspaper. “She has repeatedly threatened to kill herself in connection with papers served at her home.”
The defense attorney asked the court to appoint a guardian for the woman.
The woman represents a “rare case” in which a patient refused to take medication for the infectious disease or to remain in isolation, health officials said. This is the third time in 20 years that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has sought a court order to detain an infectious patient who has refused treatment for tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is the 13th leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There were 7,882 cases in the United States in 2021, one of the lowest tuberculosis rates in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC attributes the low rate to investments in national programs that monitor and treat the disease.
Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air, from person to person. Symptoms may include cough, chest pain, fever, weight loss, and night sweats. The disease usually attacks the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body.