Gwinnett officials placed a 17-year-old Mexican boy in jail after he refused treatment for tuberculosis
When doctors told Francisco Santos he had tuberculosis, Santos said he was walking out of the Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville and heading back to his home country of Mexico, officials said.
"I think he was scared," said David Will, attorney for the Gwinnett County Board of Health.
Will said Santos was detained because he is a public health threat.
"He has active, contagious TB," Will said Saturday. "He is at risk of communicating that with anybody he comes in contact with."
Gwinnett health officials say were aware of the recent incident involving Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, who also has tuberculosis. After Speaker left for his wedding in Greece, a national news conference set off an international health scare.
Santos is the only inmate in a special medical isolation cell designed for inmates with contagious conditions. The cell, which measures about 15 feet by 20 feet, has a special ventilation system that keeps the air from reaching other inmates.
The teenager has a toilet, sink, bed and a mirror made of polished metal. Two deputies guard him and the other medical inmates.
Will said Santos will remain in jail until either he accepts treatment. Santos could be placed in a hospital with security at a Sept. 5 commitment hearing.
Gwinnett health officials are looking for family members and others who have been in contact with Santos, who lists his address as Norcross. He lives with at least one parent and several younger siblings. His jail records also indicate he is unemployed.
Santos said he was born in Mexico. The status of his citizenship was not known.
Gwinnett health officials expect to release more information about the case as early as Monday.
"Everybody's hoping he will undergo the treatment," Will said.
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