Vindy.com (Youngstown, OH) (10.14.12)
On the November 6 ballot, residents of Mahoning County (Ohio) will vote on tuberculosis and children services levies, both proposed as five-year, countywide renewals of real estate taxes. The $0.1-million TB prevention and control levy, first enacted in 1976, funds a TB clinic in Youngstown, Ohio. County health officials said that in spite of statistics showing a decline in TB incidence in the United States, the county is asking its voters to renew, through the levy, a small local investment in an important and effective testing and treatment program. “Those statistics are the direct result of clinics like the TB clinic. This reduction doesn’t happen by accident,” said Dr. John S. Venglarcik III, county health department and TB clinic medical director. He adds, “Although our efforts are working, and it is declining, we haven’t eradicated it, and those cases that do exist still pose a severe threat to the community.”
The TB levy, appearing as Issue 4 on the ballot, raises approximately $176,540 a year and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $1.20 annually. Mahoning County performed 2,262 TB screenings in 2011, including on-campus screenings of Youngstown State University students, with an emphasis on outreach to international students, who are from areas where TB is more prevalent than in the United States, reports Diana Colaianni, nursing director at the health department. TB clinic staff members coordinate their efforts with the HIV clinic at Oakhill Renaissance Place, where Venglarcik is also the medical director, and with local prison and jail officials.
The HIV-positive population is especially at risk of developing TB because they have compromised immune systems. Incarcerated people are at risk because they live in close quarters that contribute to the spread of the disease, Dr. Venglarcik adds. The county had 13 cases of the disease last year, of which 12 were latent (inactive) and one was active. In 2010, the county had 48 cases, of which 44 were latent and four active. “The key is not how many cases of TB we had. It’s: How many cases of TB did we prevent?” stated Venglarcik. He added, “When public health does its job perfectly, it’s invisible,” and further stated that every asymptomatic TB carrier who is diagnosed and treated with antibiotics saves many people from suffering considerable hardship.