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Posted: Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 10:15am

Woman with TB arrested for avoiding treatment

By Rob Moore Editor
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Reba Hicks, 53, of Oconee County was arrested Wednesday for reckless conduct after officials say she intentionally avoided treatment for tuberculosis. (Photo/Oconee County Sheriff's Office)
WATKINSVILLE – An Oconee County woman remains jailed in medical isolation after being arrested for reckless conduct after officials say she intentionally avoided treatment for an active case of tuberculosis.

Reba Hicks, 53, was arrested after running from Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry and Sgt. Jeremy Wasdin in Jackson County Wednesday.

Berry and Wasdin went to the home of Hicks’ relatives in Maysville, where she had been sleeping in her van in the back yard.

“Public health had an order for her to be held in confinement until she could have a hearing on the progress of her treatment,” Berry said Wednesday. “Apparently she was non-compliant, according to Public Health.”

When Public Health officials brought her non-compliance to the attention of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, “we had a warrant issued for reckless conduct,” Berry said. “Public Health has a detention order on her for being a non-compliant tuberculosis patient.”

Hicks told a My Fox Atlanta reporter that she couldn’t get her medicine and had been sleeping in her van because she had nowhere to go, and because she has no driver’s license.

Asked how great a hazard was created by Hicks’ conduct, Berry said, “I’m not a doctor. The only thing I know is what Public Health tells me.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency detention laws provide public health officials with legal authority to detain a person with TB who is reasonably believed to be a threat to the public’s health. A hearing is not required prior to issuance of the health officer order or court order.

Asked if situations like this are rare, Berry said, “It does happen – and it’s a sheriff’s responsibility to carry out the orders. That’s one of the things sheriffs have to do that people don’t realize sheriffs have to do.”

“We’re just following the court order,” Berry said. “Of course we’ve got a warrant that we served on her, but we expect that warrant to be dismissed in the near future.”

Hicks was taken to the Oconee County Jail, where Berry said she is being held in medical isolation.

Of the 347 TB cases in Georgia in 2011, Oconee County had less than five TB cases, while Gwinnett County had 48, Hall County had eight, White County had less than five, Forsyth County had less than five, Cherokee County had less than five, and Barrow County had less than five. Other northeast Georgia counties reported no cases.

Responding to comments about Hicks’ arrest on its Facebook page, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office posted that masks were worn when Hicks was arrested and transported. In addition, Hicks is wearing a mask, as well as any staff that comes into contact with her.

“The nearest unit for her to be medically housed is in South Carolina … Georgia does not currently have any bed space for her,” OCSO posted.

While not commenting specifically on Hicks’ case, which was in another district, District 2 Public Health Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator Dave Palmer offered some general information about TB.

“For TB to be passed from one person to another, the bacteria has to be active – growing – in the body of the infected person,” Palmer said. “When they cough, sneeze, speak, or sing, others can be exposed to the germ. Usually you have to be in the same space as the infectious person for a period of time – not casual encounters – to become infected."

More information about tuberculosis in Georgia can be found at http://health.state.ga.us/programs/tb/index.asp.
Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News

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