With all the talk about consolidating government, I’ve been wondering why McHenry County still has a Tuberculosis District.
It is financed with $250,000 of property tax dollars a year.
TB Districts were the first public health districts in Illinois.
McHenry County did not create its own Health Department until the mid-1960’s. (My home county on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a health department before I was born in 1942.)
In the 1980’s then County Board member Ann Hughes got a referendum on the ballot to abolish the TB District, but that failed.
I recently took a look at the meeting packet of the TB District and found an extraordinary story.
McHenry County’s Health Department dealt with a case of drug resistant tuberculosis of nationwide significance in May and June.
How important was it?
The New York Times wrote a big story about it entitled, “Indian Woman Being Treated in U.S. for Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis.
Quoted was Susan Karras, the Health Department’s Communicable Disease Coordinator.
A woman recently from India via Missouri and Tennessee sought medical help from a local hospital.
When diagnosed with tuberculosis, the Health Department arranged for her medical care to be provided by a National Institutes of Health hospital near Washington.
Federal taxpayers foot the bill there, according to Anthony Fauci, head of the agency, “Everything is free at the N.I.H. No one pays,” the New York Times reported.
Karras told me that the County paid to fly her to the National Institute of Health facility in Bethesda, Maryland.
The air ambulance cost $12,000.
McHenry County Health Department Director Michael Hill explained what happened:
Because we were able to get this patient to NIH (this involved going all the way to the President’s office [by the CDC]) the direct costs to us were minimized.
I was able to get the air transport done for $12,000 (quotes ranged up to $35,000 from the few companies who were willing to do it).
I can’t complain about the federal government in this case since the patient’s treatment by NIH probably will end up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the feds took on that expense.
If the county had to absorb the cost of this patient’s treatment, it would have been financially crippling for the TB program.
Health Department reports case of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis
Woodstock Ill. — McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) reports that on April 4 an individual from India infected with an extensively drug-resistant form of Tuberculosis, also known as XDR-TB, entered the United States and then traveled to other states.
On May 18, this individual visited family in McHenry County and, during this visit, sought treatment.
The patient has since been transferred out of state for care. Individuals who were in close contact with the patient have been interviewed and are being monitored.
Tuberculosis is not easily transmissible and XDR-TB, in particular, is also rare.
XDR-TB is a form of TB which is resistant to many of the most powerful anti-TB drugs.
According to the World Health Organization, developing XDR-TB is usually a sign of an active TB patient receiving inadequate clinical care or when a patient doesn’t receive the proper information, counseling and material support to complete their full course of treatment.
Tuberculosis is spread through the air by an infected person when coughing and sneezing.
People who are nearby may breathe in the TB bacteria and become infected.
TB is not spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing.
This is the first time MCDH has identified a case of XDR-TB in the County.
MCDH works closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health and local public health partners through its surveillance system to identify and monitor reportable infectious diseases in McHenry County.
In 2014, five active cases of TB (not XDR-TB) and 57 people with latent, non-infectious TB were treated.
MCDH’s Tuberculosis Clinic, located in Woodstock, provides chest x-rays, diagnostic studies, laboratory services and medication to any McHenry County resident in addition to outreach to those populations at high risk for developing TB.
If you think you have been exposed to someone with TB, contact your health care provider or MCDH to see if you should be tested. For more information on TB, call MCDH’s Communicable Disease Program at 815-334-4500