Court order sought to force Illinois man with infectious TB to stay home

by Reuters
Friday, 11 April 2014 20:34 GMT

(Corrects name of patient to Ibanda instead of Ibana throughout)

By Barbara Goldberg

CHICAGO, April 11 (Reuters) - An Illinois judge and his entire courtroom are set to don protective masks at a hearing on Friday to decide whether to order a disobedient patient with infectious tuberculosis to wear an ankle bracelet and stay home alone.

The patient, who is in his 20s, is slated to appear at the court proceeding that may end up looking more like a scene out of the 2011 medical thriller movie "Contagion."

Since Christian Mbemba Ibanda was diagnosed in March with active pulmonary tuberculosis, he was ordered to stay home on his own and await a nurse's daily visit to administer medication, said Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde.

"We go and he's not there," Pryde said.

When health workers contacted Ibanda by phone, he said on one occasion he was out shopping and "basically told us he has things to do," Pryde said.

Another time, he was found to be home with a woman and a 5-year-old girl, both sleeping in the house and neither wearing masks, she said.

Ibanda was not immediately reachable for comment.

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, potentially deadly disease with symptoms including night sweats and extreme exhaustion and is spread through sneezing or coughing.

Unlike some forms of multi-drug resistant TB, active pulmonary tuberculosis responds to drug therapy. If Ibanda was compliant, he could be rendered noninfectious in five weeks and cured in six months to a year, Pryde said.

It is not known how Ibanda contracted the disease.

"We really don't want him to be in contact with people in an enclosed space," she said.

That is why 30 protective face guards will be on hand for anyone attending the hearing before Judge Chase Leonhard, who will consider Pryde's request to order Ibanda to comply with the isolation plan.

Ibanda will wear a surgical mask that keeps any communicable germs inside. Everyone else - including the judge, bailiff, sheriff's guards, a court stenographer and media - will wear N95 respirators to keep the germs out, Pryde said.

A conference room at the county health office in Champaign, Illinois, about 140 miles (225 km) south of Chicago, will be turned into a courtroom for the hearing, to avoid the disruption the precautions would cause at the county courthouse. (Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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