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Tacoma woman with tuberculosis refusing treatment or to isolate found in civil contempt

Judge Philip Sorenson found the woman to be in civil contempt and issued an arrest warrant.

TACOMA, Wash. — An arrest warrant was issued Friday for a Tacoma woman with tuberculosis that has not started taking medication or voluntarily isolating herself.

Judge Philip Sorenson found the woman to be in civil contempt and issued an arrest warrant. If arrested, she would be taken to a facility at the Pierce County jail for isolation, testing and treatment.

"We have worked with family and community members for more than a year to do everything we can to persuade this woman to take her medication to protect herself and our community," a statement from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reads, in part.

If the woman complies before Friday, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department may ask the court to lift the arrest warrant. Another court hearing was held on Thursday.

This is the third time in 20 years the health department has sought a court order to detain someone who is potentially contagious and refusing to seek treatment for tuberculosis. 

"In each case like this, we are constantly balancing risk to the public and the civil liberties of the patient," the statement from the health department reads. "We are always hopeful a patient will choose to comply voluntarily. Seeking to enforce a court order through a civil arrest warrant is always our last resort."

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department sees about 20 cases of active tuberculosis a year. State law requires healthcare providers to report all active cases.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that often affect the lungs. It is spread through the air. Symptoms, according to the World Health Organization, include cough, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

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