Tampa Police issue alert after woman diagnosed with tuberculosis leaves hospital

TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Police have issued an alert after a woman diagnosed with tuberculosis left Tampa General Hospital against medical advice before she received her diagnosis.

According to officials, Sarah J. Williams, who is also known by Sarah J. Owens, 53, a vagrant who frequents the downtown Tampa area, has been deemed missing and endangered after she left the hospital around 12 p.m. Saturday.

The doctor who treated Williams alerted Tampa Police on Sunday that she had tested positive and left the hospital Saturday, triggering TPD bicycle officers to begin a search for the woman that continues Sunday afternoon.

Officials said Williams was last seen wearing long brown pants, an unknown shirt and often wears a blue-green beanie.

She is a black female, 5-feet-6 and 100 lbs., with a medium-toned complexion.

Williams is considered a health threat to herself and to the public, due to her diagnosis with the contagious bacteria.

A Tampa Police official said the alert was issued because of the potential health risk to the public. A mug shot from a prior arrest is being used to identify Williams, but she is not wanted for any type of crime.

According to MayoClinic.com, tuberculosis is contagious, but it is not easy to catch.

"Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air," Mayo Clinic states on the site. "This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings."

If you have seen Williams, you are asked to contact Tampa Police immediately.

To find out more about tuberculosis, visit  http://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/general/tb.htm.

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