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October 31, 2014

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California tuberculosis patient found, arrested

FRESNO, Calif. — A California man who was charged after refusing treatment for his tuberculosis was found and arrested, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Eduardo Rosas Cruz, 25, was arrested late Monday in Kern County, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor said. Before Rosas Cruz can be sent back to San Joaquin County, he has to be medically cleared, which could take weeks, Taylor said.

Authorities last week obtained an arrest warrant for Rosas Cruz, saying he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in March after going to San Joaquin General Hospital's emergency room with a severe cough.

Medical staff at the hospital told him to stay in a Stockton motel room, where a health worker would deliver his medication and watch him take it. But officials say he left.

Rosas Cruz is a transient and comes from an area of Mexico known for a drug-resistant strain of TB, authorities said.

He was arrested Monday night during a traffic stop in Lamont, a community about 15 miles southeast of Bakersfield, said Ray Pruitt, a spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Office. Officers arrested Rosas Cruz on the San Joaquin County warrant and took him to the Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield.

TB can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease can be deadly.

Taylor said the goal of prosecuting a tuberculosis patient through the criminal courts is not to punish him, but to protect the public. He said Rosas Cruz refused to cooperate with officials.

"When somebody has behaved like this, it's time to go in-patient," Taylor said.

In court papers filed in support of the warrant, public health officials said Rosas Cruz resisted treatment from the start. He also uses crack cocaine and methamphetamine, officials said, adding that he could develop the drug-resistant strain if he hasn't already.

By law, health officials can't force a patient to be treated for tuberculosis, but officials can use the courts to isolate him from the public. That is when officials offer treatment.

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