Woman in jail for not complying with TB treatment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A Salisbury woman is in the custody of the N.C. Department of Correction after failing to comply with mandated tuberculosis treatment.
Lola Victoria Simpson, 47, was arrested Tuesday for violating a state law that requires a person with a communicable disease, in this case TB, to report for treatment.
State laws prevent the Rowan County Health Department from disclosing details of a patient’s personal health information. Officials were not able to discuss Simpson’s case, nor could they confirm she was receiving treatment through the health department.
However, the health department’s Clinical Disease Nurse, Beverly Thompson, was the complainant in the case, which was eventually brought before a Rowan County judge this week.
Simpson, who was initially booked into the Rowan County Detention Center early Tuesday morning, was transferred to a women’s facility within the N.C. Department of Correction to “complete treatment no longer than seven months,” a court document said.
The statute gives the local health director the authority to investigate communicable diseases or conditions, which also include Hepatitis B and HIV, of a person infected, exposed or suspected of being infected or exposed.
The health department provides at no cost to the patient, an exam and treatment. A patient by law must “comply with these control measures.”
“Sometimes we are forced to seek legal/court action to protect the public from individuals that do not follow the recommended course action/treatment,” said Rowan County Health Director Leonard Wood.
If the health department identifies anyone with active TB and they cooperate with directly observed therapy, then health officials do not have to issue warrants.
A warrant was issued for Simpson June 6 and served Tuesday.
According to Simpson’s attorney, James Randolph, his client was nearly complete with treatment.
“She had a lapse in her treatment due to a change in her housing, and so she and the workers from the health department had trouble seeing each other on a regular enough basis for a while,” Randolph said.
Simpson was 20 weeks into a 36-week daily regimen.
Randolph said she was sentenced to a maximum of seven months, but can leave sooner if she is finished with her course of treatment.
Keith Acree, public affairs director with the N.C. Department of Correction, said the department has an extensive medical staff at its men’s facilities and the women’s facility in Raleigh.
A person with a communicable disease such as tuberculosis would be kept in isolation, Acree said.
That person would receive the typical treatment, usually a daily oral medication and regular blood tests.
Sheriff’s officials confirmed Simpson was also kept in isolation while at the county jail.
“From time to time people do come in with certain conditions and have to be isolated,” said Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Tuberculosis is spread through the air from one person to another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected, the CDC said.
Tuberculosis is not, however, spread by shaking a person’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing.
Wood said if in fact Simpson had active TB, which is not known, the health department would get in touch with all the staff and inmates who had contact with her to perform a test “to determine if they currently have a positive TB skin test.”
Those same people would be retested in eight weeks, he said, to determine “if they have converted to a positive TB skin test. If so, we will follow appropriate treatment plan according to N.C. TB/communicable disease guidelines.”
He estimates on average the health department has one or two patients per year that require treatment for TB in Rowan County.
“The incidence and prevalence of TB in the general public is very low at this time,” Wood said.
A person could have TB, but not have symptoms, said Patty Yost, a nursing supervisor with the health department.
And not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick, the CDC said.
People with latent TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms, according to the CDC.
People with latent TB infection are also not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.
Wood said this wouldn’t be the first time his agency has had to issue warrants in such a matter.
“I have issued warrants in the past and will in the future to ensure that the individual follows appropriate communicable disease treatment/ therapy,” Wood said.
Tuberculosis and communicable disease control is an important part of public health responsibility, he said, and is taken very seriously when the medical community identifies people who need treatment/therapy.
If the public is aware that someone has tuberculosis, they should check with their personal medical provider or call the health department’s clinical disease nurse to determine their level of exposure/risk.
For more information about tuberculosis, visit www.cdc.gov or contact the Rowan County Health Department at 704-216-8777.

Tuberculosis signs
and symptoms:

• The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain.
• TB is spread through the air from one person to another.
• Bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.
• People with latent TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms.
• The only sign of infection is a positive reaction to a skin test or blood test.
• People with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.

Note: Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)