CHAMPAIGN – A judge in central Illinois ordered an uncooperative patient with infectious tuberculosis to remain in his home and allowed public health officials to track his movements with an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet to prevent the spread of disease.
The ruling came during an unusual hearing Friday at the health department in Champaign. The 24-year-old patient didn’t show up, so it wasn’t necessary for attorneys, the judge and others to wear face-mask respirators that waited at the ready.
“I was not one bit surprised” that the patient, Christian Mbemba Ibanda, didn’t show, said Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde, who had sought the court’s help. “He does not respect the public health authority and he does not respect the court’s authority.”
After the hearing, Ibanda wasn’t at home when Pryde and Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh went there to find him, she said. They quickly reached him by phone, arranged to meet him at his home and put the bracelet on him.
“It will remain that way” until he’s not contagious, which could take up to six weeks, Pryde said.
The judge’s order allows the public health department to keep Ibanda isolated while he’s taking medication and until three sputum samples test negative. If he fails to comply, he could go to jail.
Tuberculosis bacteria usually attack the lungs causing violent coughing, weight loss and chills. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal. Not everyone with TB bacteria gets sick and people with latent TB aren’t infectious. But latent TB can turn into disease if the bacteria become active and multiply.
Taking a patient to court is a last resort for public health officials. In Illinois, there have been four such court actions in the past decade.
The Associated Press attempted to reach Ibanda by email, but got no response. His phone number isn’t listed.