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Arrest warrant issued for Tacoma woman with TB refusing treatment, isolation

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An arrest warrant has been issued for a Tacoma woman diagnosed with tuberculosis, who has refused treatment and will not isolate.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has been aware of the woman with tuberculosis for more than a year. She has refused treatment and has further refused orders to isolate. The county's director of communicable disease control, Nigel Turner, has previously noted that the risk to the public is low, but has also said that, "People can die from TB if they don’t get treatment. And they can expose other people to unnecessary risk of getting TB."

The health department has gone to the court 15 times to pursue legal steps. The court has issued an order for the woman to either accept treatment or to voluntarily isolate. The health department says it has also attempted to work with the woman's family to persuade her and has offered support.

On Feb. 24, the health department went into court for a 16th time and Judge Philip Sorenson ruled that the woman was in civil contempt.

"He issued a warrant for civil arrest by law enforcement on or following Friday, March 3 for the woman to be taken to a specially designated facility at the Pierce County Jail for isolation, testing and treatment," Turner said in a statement. "If the woman complies before March 3, we may ask the court to lift the arrest warrant."

The health department notes that it encounters about 20 cases of TB each year. The current situation is the third time the department has had to get a court order for someone refusing treatment for TB.

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