Woman with tuberculosis will be forcibly drugged, quarantined, judge rules
A woman with tuberculosis who has refused to get treated will be quarantined and medicated against her will after a judge deemed her a public safety risk.
The unnamed patient — from Tacoma, Washington — has refused to isolate or take medication since being diagnosed with the contagious bacterial infection, which is treated with a course of antibiotics.
Public health officials pursued a court order after speaking to the woman and her family and failing to persuade her to quarantine and get treatment.
‘The Local Health Officer seeks an order requiring (the patient) to isolate in her residence, cooperate with testing and treatment as recommended by medical providers,’ court documents read.
‘This is less restrictive than a detention facility; however if such measures are not effective, more stringent measures may be requested.’
The order is possible under a law passed by state officials in the 1990s, allowing the courts to step in when they deem refusal of treatment a public health risk.
Tuberculosis cases in the US have drastically fallen since 1993, falling from nearly 25,000 cases in 1993 to under 10,000 in much of the late 2010s
Deaths from tuberculosis dropped significantly over the past three decades. They have fallen from around 1,800 in 1993 to around 600 in 2020, the CDC reports.
It comes amid fears that once-eradicated diseases such as polio and measles will make a return this year as anti-vaxx sentiment and distrust in doctors grows in America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns tuberculosis cases increased during the Covid pandemic – reversing a downward trend from the early 90s. Cases also increased globally during the virus’s reign.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announced the detection of the case last week.
Tuberculosis is a highly dangerous airborne disease that spreads through prolonged exposure to others.
Treatment includes a three to nine-month course of the antibiotics isoniazid and rifampicin. Depending on the type and severity of the infection, the drugs can be used anywhere from daily to weekly.
‘Most people we contact are happy to get the treatment they need,’ Nigel Turner, a Tacoma health official, said in a statement.
‘Occasionally people refuse treatment and isolation. When that happens, we take steps to help keep the community safe.’
Officials said they have an ‘obligation’ and the ‘legal authority’ to seek a court order in these cases.
The federal government allows states to control public health within their borders. The CDC is responsible for preventing transmission across borders.
Laws allowing the courts to order a person to stay home or isolate from others after they are deemed a public health risk are on the books in 38 US states, including the three of the most populous in California, Texas and New York (red)
The woman will be forced to isolate and take treatment for the disease until she is deemed to not be a public health risk (file photo)
This means that states can pass their own laws to determine how they want to deal with health threats – like deadly, contagious diseases.
A notable example of this occurred during the Covid pandemic, where US states had vastly different policies on masks, stay-at-home orders and vaccine mandates.
Passed in 1996, RCW 70.28.031 allows for the use of law enforcement to force people into quarantine or to take medication if the courts deem it a health risk.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 US states have these types of laws on the books. These include California, New York and Texas.
The case was confirmed to The News Tribune. Officials also said they have had to use law enforcement to detain a tuberculosis patient three times in the last 20 years.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Tacoma-Pierce health authorities.
Officials report the unnamed woman suffered an injury in a car crash earlier this year.
She did not inform doctors of her illness, and doctors were unaware until they found it on X-rays.
Officials then worked to persuade her to receive treatment for the condition – which she refused – before eventually filing the court order.
They could petition for the woman to be forced into quarantine because of state laws in Washington, which allow for these measures to be taken in cases deemed a public health risk.
She will now be forced to quarantine and to receive treatment for her illness. The entire process could take up to nine months.
The woman’s age, race, and name were not made public for confidentiality.
These laws generally leave decisions of who is forced to isolate up to an individual judge’s discretion.
While these orders were rarely, if ever, used on individuals during the Covid pandemic, they were used to force businesses to close or enforce mask and vaccine orders.
It is unclear why the Washington woman chose not to quarantine or take medication.
But, in some similar previous cases, patients feared the treatment’s side effects.
Many Americans have also lost trust in the medical field in recent years as part of a growing anti-vaccine, anti-medicine trend.
Some people also may object to medicine over their religious beliefs or issues with mental health.
Tuberculosis was a massive threat to Americans, and much of the world, before the widespread use of these drugs.
Nearly 25,000 cases and 1,800 deaths caused by bacterial infection were recorded in 1993, according to the CDC.
Widespread use of the drugs [REPETITION<<] and a better understanding of how it spreads led to both figures dropping massively in recent decades.
The US suffered 7,100 cases of the disease in 2020, and 600 deaths. The mortality rate of the disease in America is around ten percent.
These rates slightly increased during the Covid pandemic, with cases increased 10 percent from 2020 to 2021, and deaths by nearly 20 percent.
But, in countries where antibiotics are not as readily available, up to 50 percent of cases could lead to death.
The tuberculosis vaccine, known as the BCG shot, is used in nations where the drugs are hard to come by. It only reduces risk of infection by 13 percent, falling well below typical standards.
Tuberculosis cases of the lungs and throat are contagious, but cases of the brain and spine are most often deadly.
These cases can cause meningitis, swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord, and lead to death.
If left untreated, tuberculosis infection can spread from one area of the body to another.
WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread between people by coughing and sneezing.
The infection usually affects the lungs but the bacteria can cause problems in any part of the body, including the abdomen, glands, bones and the nervous system.
TB infection causes symptoms like fever, coughing, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness and fatigue, a loss of appetite and swellings in the neck.
If the immune system fails to contain TB bacteria the infection can take weeks or months to take hold and produce symptoms, and if it is left untreated it can be fatal.
The infection usually affects the lungs but the bacteria can cause problems in any part of the body, including the abdomen, glands, bones and the nervous system
TB is most common in less developed countries in Sub-Saharan and west Africa, southeast Asia, Russia, China and South America.