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Teen jailed in Ga. after refusing TB treatment

/ Source: The Associated Press

A teenager with active and contagious tuberculosis was jailed after he refused treatment at a hospital, and said he would return to Mexico, officials said Monday.

Francisco Santos, 17, agreed to take a regimen of four antibiotics Friday night after authorities obtained a court order to jail him, Gwinnett County health officials said at a news conference.

Santos is being held in isolation at a medical facility at the county jail, said Vernon Goins, a spokesman for the county health department. He is to be held until a Sept. 5 court hearing.

Eight of Santos’ family members, who were in close contact with the teen, have also come in for tuberculosis tests. Results are expected in two or three days, Goins said.

Santos’ isolation is unusual, but not unprecedented. An average of four TB patients are confined in Georgia each year, said Taka Wiley, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

Santos went to Gwinnett Medical Center’s emergency department on Friday for treatment of symptoms that, it turned out, were related to TB, according to a hospital spokesman.

When the boy was told he had active and contagious TB, he was upset and refused treatment.

Staff members heard him say in Spanish that he was heading to Mexico, raising the specter of an international traveler spreading the disease, said David Will, attorney for the county board of health.

The incident in some ways echoed the case of an Atlanta attorney who in May was held under a federal isolation order. Andrew Speaker had gone on a European wedding trip and refused health officials’ directives that he not take any commercial jets back to the United States.

Tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million people each year worldwide.

Because of antibiotics and other measures, the TB rate in the United States has been falling for years. Last year, it hit an all-time low of 13,767 cases, or about 4.6 cases per 100,000 Americans.