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Published December 04, 2013, 09:21 AM

TB outbreak appears to be over in Grand Forks, still costly

The tuberculosis outbreak that led to 27 confirmed cases of the disease in Grand Forks this past year has simmered down, with health officials hoping that patients will be out of treatment this spring.

By: Charley Haley, Grand Forks Herald

The tuberculosis outbreak that led to 27 confirmed cases of the disease in Grand Forks this past year has simmered down, with health officials hoping that patients will be out of treatment this spring.

Terri Keehr, registered nurse and TB program manager at Grand Forks Public Health, said there are 11 patients still in treatment and none of them are considered contagious.

"The case management is going very well," she said. Patients still in treatment are taking medication every day, whether it's by going to the Public Health office each day or by having a nurse bring medication to them if they lack transportation.

The outbreak, which largely started about 13 months ago, had some patients in isolation, with nurses even bringing them food to keep from spreading the disease.

"We have not had anyone in isolation for a long time," Keehr said Tuesday.

Some of the 11 patients still in treatment should be finished in the next couple of months, and Keehr said she expects all of the patients' treatment to be complete by early spring.

Although known TB patients are out of treatment, that doesn't mean the disease has been wiped out of Grand Forks, Keehr said.

"There may be people out there that we haven't found yet," she said. "We hope that's not the case, but we can't say there's no risk."

Extra costs

Efforts to treat and contain TB in the past year have cost more than $100,000.

On Monday, the Grand Forks City Council approved a reimbursement of $55,532 from the North Dakota Department of Health. Added to previous reimbursements, Grand Forks has received about $143,000 from the state for TB management.

Keehr said those dollars go toward all aspects of treatment, from paying nurses for working additional hours to providing medication.

The outbreak has also caused a strain on Public Health employees, Keehr said.

Public Health has several other programs that it'd had to continue while caring for the influx of TB patients, Keehr said.

"We've had to reallocate some job responsibilities in the department," to meet all of the needs, she said.

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