Mumps, whooping cough stretch health district budget

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EPHRATA — The mumps outbreak in Grant County this year cost the Grant County Health District over $100,000, according to district administrator Theresa Adkinson.

That cost has strained the district’s already precarious budget, she added during a meeting of the Grant County Board of Health on Wednesday. It’s because the district does not have adequate staff to apply for grants to cover the cost of dealing with the outbreak and $40,000 in state funding associated with the Solid Waste Complaint Grant are tied up with the failure of the state legislature in Olympia to pass a capital budget.

It doesn’t help that most cities in Grant County are not contributing all of the requested $2 per resident the district has asked for.

“A slight increase is expected in city contributions,” Adkinson said. “So things are looking slightly better.”

“All of your funding partners have the same problem,” reminded county commissioner and board member Richard Stevens. “You don’t have any money, and we don’t either. None of the cities (in Grant County) are rolling in dough. Except maybe Quincy.”

Grant County was hit with 45 reported cases of mumps in during the 2016-2017 epidemic — all but one confined to the Columbia Basin Job Corps site in Moses Lake — as part of a major mumps epidemic that hit the country.

Adkinson said the whooping cough outbreak has cost the health district $21,500 so far this year.

Grant County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny said there have been 81 cases of whooping cough in Grant County so far this year, making this year’s outbreak bigger than the outbreak three years ago.

“It’s the largest we’ve ever had,” Brzezny said.

Brzezny also said, however, that no new cases of whooping cough have been reported in the county since the beginning of October, which also likely means the outbreak is slowing down.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease spread through the air, usually by coughing or sneezing or spending too much time close to someone who has the disease. The disease can be deadly to babies and very small children.

Brzezny told board members that the health district is receiving reports of three to six cases of influenza each week. That’s below epidemic levels, but it’s still early in the flu season.

He said it was not too late to get a flu shot, and advised people to wash their hands regularly and stay home from work if they get sick to avoid spreading the flu to others.

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

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