SANTA BARBARA ( — An arrest warrant has been issued for a Southern California man with a contagious case of drug-resistant tuberculosis, authorities said Friday.

24-year-old Agustin Zeferino discontinued treatment for the disease two weeks ago, Santa Barbara County Health Department officials said.

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He is believed to be in the Santa Barbara area but officials don’t know where.

Health Department official Dr. Charity Thoman told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO there are several reasons authorities believe Zeferino may still be in Santa Barbara County.

“He has many ties in Santa Maria, which is the largest city in northern Santa Barbara County,” said Thoman. “He’s well-established here, we have very strong reasons to believe he is still in the area.”

While tuberculosis can be cured with treatment, people like Zeferino with drug-resistant cases are required to continue taking medication for 18 to 24 months, according to Thoman.

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“If Mr. Zeferino is contagious and he is out in our community, it is a public health emergency,” she said.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a highly contagious and rare form of the disease that can be spread by coughing or sneezing. The department says Zeferino poses a serious health risk to anyone who comes in contact with him.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis can be life-threatening and is difficult to treat, but is curable.

Anyone with information on Zeferino is asked to call 911 and avoid close contact with the patient.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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