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Thursday, January 11th, 2007

County to obtain TB medicine

By Pat Royse
Mercer County commissioners approved a financial assistance request Tuesday to purchase tuberculosis medication for a high risk county resident.
Under Ohio law (ORC 339.73), county commissions are the payer of last resort for tuberculosis treatment (TB) but only to the extent that payment is not made through third party benefits, such as health insurance or Medicaid.
Communicable Disease Nurse Joyce Jansen said she always applies for TB medication money from commissioners regardless, because the sooner TB treatment is begun, the quicker the spread of the disease can be halted. Third party reimbursement may take awhile. She can get the patient to a doctor more quickly if he or she knows the county will pay the bill, she says.
Jansen, who has been with the Mercer County Health Department for the past three years, said there have been times when the money requested was not used. But she doesn't want to take chances.
Commission Clerk Kim Everman reports total expense for TB medicines the past two years have been $931.04 in 2005 and $952.69 in 2006.
Ohio counties' responsibility in helping control TB goes back several years.
TB, a disease that is spread from person to person through the air, was once the leading cause of death in the United States. But in the mid-1940s, researchers discovered drugs to treat the disease.
After the federal government halted its TB control support, cases rose by 20 percent between 1985 and 1992. In 1999 the legislature looked at disease controlling efforts again. At that time there were still 289 cases of the disease reported in Ohio and 17,000 in the United States.
To help fight the disease, Ohio counties were directed by legislature in 2000 to set up TB clinics, a communicable disease program operated by the county board of health or a hospital. Counties also had authority to levy a tax for TB clinics if approved by voters. The Ohio Department of Health also has funds available for those with TB disease who must be isolated.
The difference between a TB infection and TB disease is this: Most people who breath in the TB bacteria are able to fight off the infection and stop it from growing. This is an infection and the TB bacteria is not passed on to others. About 10 percent of those who become infected will develop active TB then or at some point in their lives. Once active, the disease is highly contagious and deadly if not treated.
Jansen said that at any one time about 30 percent of the population in the country will test positive for having had exposure to TB bacterium.
Tuesday's request for TB medicine assistance is for someone who has been near another person with a TB infection or an active case. A high-risk person may be those with reduced immunity, someone living in close quarters such as a roommate or someone who has moved here from a country where TB affects a larger population, among a myriad of other risk factors.
In other business during the Tuesday meeting of commissioners, they:
• Set a date for receiving bids for the demolition of several buildings in Montezuma.
• Authorized a tuition reimbursement program for a couple of employees at Jobs and Family Services.
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