TB victim commits self to health facility

March 18, 1995|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

A man with infectious tuberculosis who recently was released from the Carroll County Detention Center voluntarily committed himself to a medical facility yesterday after violating state home quarantine regulations.

The man, who tested positive for tuberculosis last month while being held at the jail, was ordered to home quarantine by the county health department after being released on bond on Feb. 23, said Mason Waters, the detention center warden.

Since that time a public health nurse had visited the man daily to give him medication.

"He'd broken home quarantine on several occasions and been in circumstances where the chance of his passing along tuberculosis had been very good," said Dr. Janet Neslen, the county's health officer.

County health officials said medical confidentiality laws prevented them from identifying the man or the medical facility where he is being treated.

"He's still very contagious and he still has to continue on his medication," Dr. Neslen said. "Once he's not contagious, then we can treat him in the home."

Dr. Neslen said that the treatment period for tuberculosis is at least six months. If the man hadn't agreed to commit himself, Dr. Neslen could have pursued involuntary commitment through the courts.

Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs that is spread through the air, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine.

According to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in 1994 there were 363 cases of tuberculosis in Maryland, three of them in Carroll County.

In the current case, the man was found to have infectious tuberculosis during a routine medical exam in the screening unit of the Carroll detention center. Jail staff and other inmates who were exposed to the man have tested negative for tuberculosis, Mr. Waters said.

The man was never moved to the general jail population of 130 to 150 inmates, but for 10 days he remained in a single cell in the screening unit, which has a capacity of 16 inmates, Mr. Waters said.

Like some other detention centers in the state, the Carroll County jail has no isolation facility to quarantine prisoners with infectious diseases, Mr. Waters said.

In 1992, the Division of Correction identified 11 cases of tuberculosis in state correction facilities. There were two cases in 1993, and four in 1994, said Dr. Newton Kendig, medical director for the division.

The resurgence of tuberculosis in the mid-1980s presented problems for correction facilities with no infection control facilities, Dr. Anthony Swetz said.

Marty Sitterding, a deputy state's attorney in Carroll, said this most recent case raised questions about whether to enforce a new state law that increases the powers of the health department in communicable disease cases. Under the new provision, which took effect last October, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor for violating an order of the health department.

After an investigation, the state's attorney's office determined not to file charges against the man in this case, Ms. Sitterding said.

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