Health officials monitoring case of tuberculosis in Tacoma woman who has refused treatment

TACOMA, Wash. — Health officials are monitoring a case of active tuberculosis in a Tacoma woman who has declined treatment, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Washington averages about 200 cases of active TB per year, with about 20 of those cases occurring in Pierce County.

TB infections usually affect a person’s lungs but can also happen in other parts of the body. It is curable with medication but can result in death if left untreated. Most people who are treated with the proper medication fully recover from the illness.

People with active, untreated infections are contagious and “represent a risk to the community,” according to health officials.

“Most people we contact are happy to get the treatment they need,” said Nigel Turner, division director of Communicable Disease Control in Pierce County. “Occasionally, people refuse treatment and isolation. When that happens, we take steps to help keep the community safe.”

Health officials say they are working with the woman and her family to “try to persuade her to get the treatment she needs.”

The health department has the legal authority to seek a court order to persuade patients to comply and receive treatment for TB, but this has only been done in “very rare cases,” according to Turner.

State law requires healthcare providers to report all cases of active TB to a local health department.