What's old, apparently, is new, as evidenced by a person with an untreated case of TUBERCULOSIS running around like some kind of typhoid Mary.
A Washington State woman identified only by her initials, VN, was ordered by a judge back in February to either take medication or isolate herself after contracting TB and refusing both treatment and quarantine. And as a local health official told the New York Times, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has "determined, or has reason to believe" she still has it.
"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," reads the health department's original statement in February, announcing that a judge had issued a warrant for her arrest. "After 15 court hearings, we are closing in on our last option."
The risks to her community are substantial. Remember, we're talking about an infectious — and completely treatable — disease that can be spread through a mere cough or sneeze and kills well over a million people each year.
According to the NYT's sources, the woman was seen taking a city bus to a casino and then was missing from her home for a number of days. At some point in April, the chief of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Corrections Bureau even ordered surveillance on VN's home.
As of this week, the woman is still at large and has not yet been arrested.
"I cannot give out any information as to how we are trying to locate her, where we are looking or any other details as it can ruin the efforts by our deputies," Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department told the NYT by email.
While the concept of issuing an arrest warrant on someone for refusing treatment — and placing them under surveillance over it — seems pretty draconian, the woman has apparently been running around with TB since January of 2022. That poses a huge health risk to her community given that tuberculosis is, per the World Health Organization, still the second-leading cause of infectious disease death in the world after COVID-19.
There are invariably some squishy ethics going on in this case, but it's clear why the courts are gravely concerned about the situation.
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