On Thursday prosecutors in Northern California said they have obtained an arrest warrant for a 25-year-old homeless man who was diagnosed with tuberculosis and refused treatment. The police are currently searching for him because he might be contagious and pose a threat to the health of others.
According to reports, Eduardo Rosas Cruz visited the emergency room at San Jaoquin General Hospital in French Camp, California, back in March and complained of a severe cough, shortness of breath, and a high fever. After he was checked out by doctors, the medical staff diagnosed him with tuberculosis and asked him to stay in a Stockton motel room where a health worker would deliver him the proper medication and watch him take it. But Rosas Cruz took off and hasn't been seen since.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis that typically attacks the lungs, but it's also capable of attacking the kidneys, spine, and brain. The bacterium can spread if an infected person has TB in the lungs or throat and they cough, sneeze, speak, or sing. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TB affects one-third of the world's population (because not everyone infected with the bacterium becomes sick) and in 2012 nine million people across the world were infected, including 1.3 million deaths.
Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Rosas Cruz because his refusal to receive treatment can severely affect the well-being of others. Health officials asked prosecutors to obtain a warrant because the man on the loose is said to have come from a part of Mexico that is known for its drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. It was also noted that he uses crack cocaine and methamphetamine, which can intensify the onset of TB and could allow him to develop the drug-resistant strain if he doesn't already have it. Rosas Cruz's name is in the statewide law enforcement system and authorities are intensifying their search.
"We're interested in this guy because he broke the orders of the health officer," San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor, in this BBC News article. "He could be in a homeless shelter. He could be around the corner from the courthouse. We don't know."
It was also acknowledged that health officials cannot force a patient to receive treatment for TB, but the courts can isolate an infected person from the public in order to contain the infection. The San Jaoquin County Police Department arrested a man in mid-2012 for refusing TB treatment and released him on January 7, 2013. Taylor said he is using the court system to protect the public's health, not to arrest Rosas Cruz.
You can read more about the TB infected patient on the loose in this Fox News article.