Officials have issued an arrest warrant for a man with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.
The Southern California man, 24-year-old Agustin Zeferion, discontinued treatment for tuberculosis two weeks ago according to Santa Barbara County Health Department officials. He was given information about tuberculosis and medication for the illness but he chose to stop taking the medication.
Officials said his condition could worsen without treatment.
Officials believe that Zeferion is still in the Santa Barbara area.
"He has many ties in Santa Maria, which is the largest city in northern Santa Barbara County," said Health Department official Dr. Charity Thoman. "He's well-established here, we have very strong reasons to believe he is still in the area."
He has not been seen in two weeks, and Santa Barbara County Health Department spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said officials have checked his last known residence, but have not been able to locate him.
Normally, tuberculosis can be cured with treatment, but people with drug-resistant cases are required to continue taking medication for 18 to 24 months.
Officials say that since Zeferino's case is drug-resistant, and the disease is highly contagious and can be spread through coughing or sneezing, the department said Zeferino is a serious health risk to anyone who comes in contact with him. Thoman said the situation is a public health emergency.
Drug-resistant tuberculosis is curable though it may be difficult to treat.
Another man, Eduardo Rosas Cruz, was arrested last month in Kern Country after being diagnosed with TB and refusing treatment. He was diagnosed after complaining of a severe cough. The health worker who planned to deliver his medication came back and he was gone.
According to the CDC, tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the bacteria usually attacks the lungs, though it can attack any part of the body. Without treatment, it is fatal.
Tuberculosis is typically treated by taking several drugs for six to nine months. If the medication is not finished and/or taken as prescribed, it can come back and become harder to treat. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.
Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air in droplets from sneezing, coughing or speaking.