Wanted woman jailed for refusing to get treatment for tuberculosis in Washington state

A wanted woman who public health officials said refused a court order to receive treatment for tuberculosis for more than a year is now jailed in Washington state.

The woman, identified in documents by the initials V.N., was taken into custody June 1, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said.

A warrant for her arrest was issued March 3 in Pierce County Superior Court after Judge Philip Sorenson found her in civil contempt for allegedly refusing to isolate herself or get treatment for the highly contagious airborne disease, health officials reported in a statement.

The woman, who is from Tacoma, was transported to the Pierce County Jail, where she will be housed in a room "equipped for isolation, testing and treatment," health department spokesman Nigel Turner wrote in an updated statement released late last week.

"We are hopeful she will choose to get the life-saving treatment she needs to treat her tuberculosis," he wrote in the statement. "Thank you to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the deputies who supported public health with this necessary intervention."

Sgt. Darren Moss, a spokesperson for the sheriff's department, told USA TODAY Monday the woman was arrested without incident at her home and transported to the jail in a vehicle "that had the air separated between the cabin and the back of the vehicle."

Officials did not release the woman's age and Moss declined to elaborate on her treatment or speculate when she might be released.

"The sheriff’s department was responsible for detaining her, transporting her to the jail and holding her in a secure area that would not spread the disease and allows for her care and treatment," Moss wrote.

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What is tuberculosis and how does it spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is a treatable bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can also attack other parts of the body including the kidneys, spine, and brain.

It is spread through the air from one person to another, so when someone with TB of the lungs or throat coughs or speaks, the bacteria is emitted in the air, potentially infecting those nearby.

TB is one of the most common illnesses in the world. There are around 10 million new cases every year.

According to health officials, Washington averages about 200 cases of TB each year. In Pierce County, cases range annually from 15 to 25.

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'More than a year' of failed persuasion

On its website, the health department wrote, it had been working with the woman’s family for more than a year to persuade her “to take her medication to protect herself and our community.”

The department also previously reported the woman's case marked the third time in two decades the agency has had to seek a court order "to detain a potentially contagious patient" who refused treatment for TB.

The woman is due in court for a hearing on June 23, court records show.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Washington woman arrested for refusing tuberculosis treatment