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Judge extends warrant for woman refusing tuberculosis treatment

A Washington woman has been involved in a 16-month court battle over refusing treatment for highly contagious tuberculosis.
Judge extends warrant for woman refusing tuberculosis treatment
Posted at 8:53 AM, May 24, 2023

Three months after an arrest warrant was issued, a woman identified as "VN" in court records who refused tuberculosis treatment remains on the loose. 

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in Washington said Judge Philip Sorenson extended the arrest warrant for VN last week as the woman has refused to take life-saving medication or isolate. 

The court records show that the battle between the health department and VN over seeking treatment has been ongoing since January 2022. 

"People can die from TB if they don’t get treatment," the department stated. "And they can expose other people to unnecessary risk of getting TB."

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It was not until Feb. 24 of this year when authorities decided to issue an arrest warrant. 

It's rare for the health department to take legal action in these cases. Health officials say they try to work with the person first. If that doesn't work, they contact family members, friends or people in the community for help. 

"This case is only the third time in the past 20 years the Health Department has had to seek a court order to detain a potentially contagious patient who refused treatment for TB," the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that can attack the lungs, brain and spine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 8,000 cases of tuberculosis were reported in the U.S. in 2021.

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