TUBERCULOSIS: USA: Woman sought in tuberculosis case arrested
By WAYNE FORDupdated Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 10:50pm
A 53-year-old woman sought by law enforcement because she might expose people to tuberculosis tried to run from officers Wednesday morning, but was captured minutes later in a patch of woods in north Jackson County.
“As soon as we pulled up in the yard, she ran into the woods,” Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said. “As soon as we got her handcuffed, we put a mask on her. We were wearing masks as well.”
Reba Rene Hicks, who has lived in Oconee and Hall counties, was located at a residence off Edwin Reynolds Road, a dead-end road near Maysville.
Authorities received an anonymous tip on Hicks’ whereabouts from someone who saw a story Wednesday morning in the Athens Banner-Herald about the police search for her. Police issued an arrest warrant for Hicks on a charge of reckless conduct. She was considered a public risk due to her tuberculosis and continued failures to get treatment, according to Oconee County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Lee Weems.
When the tip came in, Berry decided to check it out himself. Deputies had already been warned not to approach Hicks unless they had access to such medical gear as masks.
“I can’t ask a deputy to do something I’m not willing to do myself,” he said, adding that he and Sgt. Jeremy Wasdin were led to the location with help from a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy.
Hicks is incarcerated in medical isolation at the Oconee County Jail, where she was examined by the jail nurse and a public health nurse, Berry said.
A deputy obtained a warrant for Hicks on Tuesday, telling a magistrate’s judge that Hicks appeared to be purposely avoiding further treatments and is potentially exposing others to the disease.
Hicks was talkative on the way to jail, Berry said.
“She knew that her failure to comply would result in her going to jail. The nurse told her that, and she didn’t want to go to jail,” Berry said.
Hicks tested positive for TB on April 3. She started treatments on June 15, but later went off the treatments, according to a sheriff’s report.
“It is possible that the suspect has been without medication for a period long enough to make her infectious again,” according to the report.
Lou Kudon, a spokesman for the Northeast Health District, said Wednesday that due to regulations he could not talk about Hicks or whether an investigation is being made in regards to people who Hicks has had recent contact with.
However, he said when someone has tuberculosis in the community there is usually no risk unless there is close and prolonged contact.
“Usually when we have TB, we only test the household contacts because it does take prolonged exposure to get TB,” he said.
“If you ever feel like you’re exposed to TB, you can go to the health department and talk to a nurse about the exposure and they can arrange for a skin test,” Kudon said.
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