US & Canada

California manhunt for tuberculosis-positive patient

An undated photo of Eduardo Rosas Cruz
Image caption Eduardo Rosas Cruz may be infected with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, health officials say

Authorities in California are searching for a fugitive homeless man who has refused treatment for tuberculosis and may be contagious.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Eduardo Rosas Cruz, 25, of Mexico.

Mr Cruz was diagnosed with the illness at a local emergency room in March but fled when asked to remain in the area for treatment.

Health officials are concerned he may be infected with a drug-resistant strain of the illness.

"We need help getting him in," San Joaquin County public health officer Dr Alvaro Garza told US media. "We've not been able to find him in places he's told us he's going to be."

Forced isolation

It is currently unclear if Mr Cruz is contagious, but he has not completed a nine-month course of medicine required for treatment.

Tuberculosis - spread through air when an infected person sneezes or coughs - can be fatal if left untreated.

In March, Mr Cruz arrived in hospital in San Joaquin complaining of a severe cough, shortness of breath, high fever and weight loss.

After he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was told to stay in a nearby motel and wait for a health worker to deliver medication.

He did not comply, prompting government officials to add him to a state-wide law enforcement database and later obtain an arrest warrant.

Health officials cannot, by law, force a person to be treated for tuberculosis. They can however isolate the infected person from the public.

"We're interested in this guy because he broke the orders of the health officer," San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor told the Associated Press News Agency.

"He could be in a homeless shelter. He could be around the corner from the courthouse," he added. "We don't know."