SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Public Health officials across the state and across the border are searching for 24 year old Augustin Zeferino who was diagnosed with a highly contagious and drug resistant form of tuberculosis, or TB, by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Zeferino.
"Its a dangerous infection for individuals to have and for those he may come in contact with, it really does place them at risk", says Paige Batson with Santa Barbara County Public Health.
Instead of surrendering to quarantine and more intensive treatment, Zeferino fled the reach of public health officials which issued the health alert due to his contagious TB which can spread easily through close contact, and if left untreated, can be deadly.
"When the bacteria becomes resistant we have to use different kinds of medications", Batson says, "some times the regimen may include daily injections that can last up to 18 to 24 months."
Zeferino's case is the most serious for County Public Health which is currently treating about two dozen people countywide for TB.
Many of the cases involve undocumented immigrants who travel back and forth across the border looking for work in the local farm fields, including Zeferino.
Batson says public health officials have contacted Zeferino's previous employers in the Santa Maria Valley.
"We're even working with a program in the event that he may visit Mexico we have a relationship with them where they can assist us in locating him", Batson says, "we're also working with California Department of Public Health TB Control branch who are also aiding us in where he may resurface, as he becomes more ill or because he's identified, and hopefully we can locate him and get him back on treatment."
Bastson says Zeferino was not considered a public health threat when he was first tested for TB.
"Individuals have rights to have freedom of movement and as long as someone isn't infectious, which he wasn't at the time he fled, he has the right to move around the community", Batson says, "he was not infectious at that time."