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Friday, Dec 19, 2014

Search continues for Tampa woman with TB


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TAMPA - Police are still trying to find a homeless woman who left a hospital before finding out she has tuberculosis.

Sarah Williams -- who also goes by the name of Sarah Owens -- left Tampa General Hospital on Saturday afternoon before doctors informed her the result of her tuberculosis was positive.

At noon Sunday, a doctor who treated Williams contacted Tampa police to inform the agency that she's missing and has tuberculosis.

Police officers are on the lookout for Williams as they perform their regular duties, said Andrea Davis, a Tampa police spokeswoman. The police agency's homeless liaison also is working on the case, she said.

"We're looking for her," Davis said Monday.

Steve Huard, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Health Department, said tuberculosis can be fatal if not treated.

"She really needs to seek medical care so she can be treated," Huard said.

The public doesn't have to be alarmed that there's someone walking around with tuberculosis, Huard said. The chances of passing tuberculosis aren't great, he said.

"It's a fairly low threat," Huard said. "It takes a prolonged, close contact to catch tuberculosis."

Tuberculosis is transmitted through droplets such as from a cough or a sneeze, Huard said. It's very unlikely someone could contract tuberculosis from shaking hands, touching a handrail recently touched by someone with the disease or sitting on a park bench recently used by someone with the disease, he said.

"It's not going to be (from) casual contact," Huard said. "It's 100 percent preventable and treatable. The threat is very low for the general public."

Williams, 53, is a black woman who is 5-foot-6 and weighs 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing long brown pants, an unknown shirt and a green Beanie. She has no known address and is known to frequent the downtown Tampa area.

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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