By Barbara Goldberg
CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Illinois judge on Friday ordered a disobedient patient with infectious tuberculosis to wear an ankle bracelet and stay home alone or be taken into custody.
Christian Mbemba Ibanda, who is in his 20s, of Champaign, Illinois, failed to appear at a hearing for which Judge Chase Leonhard and his entire courtroom had been fitted with protective masks to guard against the highly contagious disease.
In Ibanda's absence the masks were not worn in the courtroom, but were taken along by a team of officials who headed out to Ibanda's apartment to carry out the judge's order. One team member, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde, who sought the order, said Ibanda refused to come to the hearing and told her he was staying home.
But when the team arrived at Ibanda's apartment in Champaign, about 140 miles south of Chicago, it was vacant. Pryde slapped a sign on the door reading "Quarantine. Contagious Disease. Keep Out." She said the team would keep searching for him.
Ibanda was diagnosed in March with active pulmonary tuberculosis, and was ordered to stay home on his own and await a nurse's daily visit to administer medication, Pryde said.
"We go and he's not there," she said before the hearing.
On previous occasions, when health workers contacted Ibanda by phone, he had said 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.
Pryde said it was not immediately clear whether Ibanda would face consequences for failing to show up at Friday's proceeding.
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.
In a similar case in 2009, another Champaign TB patient was in court-ordered isolation for about six weeks and, after a year of therapy, he was cured of TB, Pryde said.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)