Cost of Grand Fork’s TB fight risesNearly 10 months after the first of 26 tuberculosis cases were diagnosed in Grand Forks, city health officials are still working on managing the outbreak and associated costs.
By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald
Nearly 10 months after the first of 26 tuberculosis cases were diagnosed in Grand Forks, city health officials are still working on managing the outbreak and associated costs.
More than 1,500 people have been tested since October 2012, when the first TB case was detected at Phoenix Elementary School, according to Public Health Director Don Shields.
The testing continues and Shields said there may be more diagnosed cases announced as department staff track down more people who may have come in contact with infected persons.
The disease, which attacks the lungs, brain and kidneys, is potentially lethal if left untreated.
“We want to protect the public and stop the outbreak,” Shields said.
The costs of containing the outbreak are mounting. The Grand Forks City Council is in the process of reviewing a budget amendment that would add nearly $40,000 to the health department’s budget.
The money is a reimbursement from the North Dakota Department of Health that covers part of the city’s cost of managing infected patients and testing others for TB.
This is the second reimbursement the city has received from the state and brings the total amount of money Grand Forks has received to about $80,000. Shields said he expects there will be future reimbursements.
“There’s a huge labor cost associated with making sure people are staying on mediation,” he said. Almost half of the most recent reimbursement is designated for salary costs.
As of now, 23 people are being monitored by Shields’ staff. The monitoring requires daily visits to ensure the patients are taking their medication. Treatment for TB can last from six months to a year.
The difficulty in containing the outbreak comes in the nature of the people who typically contract the disease. Most are considered low income or homeless, according to Shields.
Ten of the active patients have been placed in subsidized housing to allow the department to keep them in quarantine. Shields said food also is brought to them in order to minimize the spread of TB.
“We don’t want these people out in grocery stores,” he said.
The nomadic nature of the patients prior to diagnosis makes tracking potential other cases difficult. Finding new cases is a possibility as the health departments continues investigating leads.
Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1108; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.