Grand Forks Herald (07.09.2013)
City health officials in Grand Forks, N.D., are still in the process of managing and computing the cost of a 2012 TB outbreak. The city experienced 26 TB cases and has tested more than 1,500 individuals since October 2012, when officials detected the first case at an elementary school. Testing continues and, according to Public Health Director Don Shields, officials expect to diagnose more cases as the department tracks down more contacts of infected individuals.
Meanwhile, the costs of managing the outbreak continue to increase. The Grand Forks City Council is reviewing a budget amendment to add approximately $40,000 to the health department’s budget. This is a reimbursement from the state Department of Health to cover part of the city’s cost of managing infected patients and testing others. This is the state’s second reimbursement to the city and brings the total amount the city has received to approximately $80,000. Approximately half of the reimbursement will pay salaries, as there is a huge labor cost in making sure that patients adhere to treatment. At present, Shield’s staff is monitoring 23 patients by means of daily visits to ensure they are taking their medication.
Part of the problem with the outbreak is that many people who contract TB are low-income or homeless. Also, the nomadic lifestyle of the patients before they were diagnosed impedes the process of tracking others who may have been in contact with them. Officials have placed 10 of the patients with active TB in subsidized housing with food delivery so that the department could keep them in quarantine and minimize the spread of TB.