Man jailed for missing TB treatment

COVINGTON - A Newton County man who tested positive for tuberculosis has been jailed after refusing to follow his medical treatment plan.

According to booking records from the Newton County Detention Center, 32-year-old Anthony Guinn Underwood, of 170 Heritage Way in Covington, was arrested May 9.

Lisa Smith, a nurse at the infirmary at the Newton County Detention Center said a pickup order was given by the health department to bring Underwood to the jail "so we could contain him so he's not out in the community infecting everybody."

Smith said he was placed in one of the infirmary's "negative pressure rooms," which are specially designed for those with communicable diseases.

"All the air is sucked up through vents and not released out into the open so he is in complete isolation," she explained. "Any time staff members enter the room, we have on masks."

Vernon Goins, spokesman for the East Metro Health District, said the health department was notified by Newton Medical Center of Underwood's condition May 2.

Underwood was released from the hospital May 5 and ordered to remain confined at home and to allow the health department to administer medication until he was no longer contagious, Goins said.

Medical personnel began administering medication to Underwood at his home May 6, he said.

"We found it too difficult to track him down. He was supposed to be at home. We visited, and there was no one there," Goins said. "Whenever that order is given by the health department and isn't complied with, we have no option except to have that person confined until he is no longer infectious. Our ultimate concern is the safety of the community."

Goins said the health department is now attempting to track and test some 150 people who had recent close contact with Underwood.

Tuberculosis testing is done in three stages: A skin test; chest X-ray and testing of sputum, or phlegm from deep inside the lungs. If all three tests come back positive, the patient is considered contagious, Goins said.

Three people, including two children, who have been in contact with Underwood have had positive skin tests and chest X-rays, Goins said. The children, who lived in Underwood's home, are on drug therapy, he said. At least one child was hospitalized but is now home, he said.

Goins said only close and immediate contacts of Underwood's should be concerned at this point.

"There is no community threat at this time based on his work," he said.

According to the jail booking records, Underwood was last employed with R & L Painting.

Goins said Underwood's release will be contingent upon his agreement to self-isolate and cooperate with the health department.

This is the second time in eight months the department has had a patient jailed for not complying with medical treatment for tuberculosis, Goins said.

In August, a Mexican teenager was put in court-ordered isolation at the Gwinnett County Jail. The teen, who was in the United States illegally, was eventually deported.

News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.