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Prosecutor: Tuberculosis patient who refused care arrested in effort to protect public

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FRESNO, Calif. - A California man who disappeared after refusing treatment for tuberculosis, which can be contagious and spreads by coughing or sneezing, was found and arrested on charges of refusing to comply with health officials, 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 he left, officials said.

The criminal complaint charges Rosas Cruz with one misdemeanour count of refusing to comply with a tuberculosis order.

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 on the San Joaquin County warrant 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 took him to the Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield.

Rosas Cruz needs to undergo testing to determine if he is still contagious, health officials have said. If untreated, tuberculosis can be deadly.

The goal of prosecuting a tuberculosis patient through the criminal courts is not to punish him, but to protect the public, Taylor said.

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

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

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