County officials in Arizona have taken the highly unusual and extreme step of jailing a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient who refuses to wear a mask in public to prevent the spread of the disease. The patient, Robert Daniels, suffers from an aggressively drug-resistant strain of the disease, XDR-TB, which is considered more or less untreatable. County health officials got a court order to lock Daniels up when he refused to take precautions that include wearing the mask. He is being detained indefinitely, and in theory, could be in jail the rest of his life, though he's requesting release at a court date later this month.
The U.S. had a total of 13,767 reported TB cases in 2006, and as public health officials work to contain the disease, detentions have been made time to time across the U.S. In Texas, for example, 17 TB patients were placed in an involuntary quarantine facility this year. Medical ethicists say the issue of when to implement involuntary detentions is likely to come up again in the near future, as drug-resistant staph infections, pandemic flu or other dangerous infectious diseases arise.
To get more information on the detention:
- read this Associated Press article