Health district to seek state help with mumps, TB

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Grant County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny at a Board of Health meeting on Wednesday updating board members on the suspected case of tuberculosis in Grant County.

EPHRATA — Grant County’s sole possible case of tuberculosis has the potential to cost the county’s health district upwards of $100,000 — a great deal more if it turns out to be not only TB but a strain of the disease resistant to two or more antibiotics.

“This will be a significant financial burden,” Alexander Brzezny, the district’s health officer, said at a meeting of the Grant County Board of Health on Wednesday. “We will need to seek some financial assistance from the state.”

The health district was already straining under the task of dealing with the mumps outbreak without the burden of caring for at least one TB patient, which involves daily visits to make sure the patient takes the prescribed medication for nine months.

Brzezny said that while it would be some weeks before TB could be confirmed, the patient is responding to treatment for tuberculosis and the DNA from the TB bacteria was found as well.

The case was identified on March 24 — which, incidentally, was World TB Day — by hospital employees in Grant County, Brzezny said, and officials could are still investigating where the initial exposure took place. They have, however, notified and are monitoring 199 Grant County residents — 118 of them health care workers — as well as eight Adams County residents and 19 Lincoln County residents who have been exposed to TB.

“The investigation is still ongoing, so I’m not commenting; we might jeopardize the investigation,” Brzezny said.

Brzezny also told the health board that Grant County has not seen a new case of mumps in seven days. So far, 42 cases of mumps have been identified in Grant County, nearly all of them at the Columbia Basin Job Corps Center.

While there have been a few objections to vaccinations for the mumps — Frederick Cancilla, a Job Corps employee who refuses to be vaccinated for religious reasons, is disputing the health officer’s decision to exclude him from work — Brzezny said one of the upsides to the vaccination program has been improved protection against the measles, which has experienced a resurgence recently as vaccination rates in the industrialized west have fallen.

“And that, unlike the mumps, kills people,” Brzezny said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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