TB outbreak response a tremendous success

IT WAS A PERFECT example of what government can and should do – and it was done well.

Sheboygan County public health officials reported to the County Board last month on the response to an outbreak of tuberculosis that occurred earlier this year in the city of Sheboygan.

The disease, once widespread but now fairly rare in the United States, was diagnosed in a Sheboygan resident in April.

Within four months, 10 cases of the disease had been diagnosed in Sheboygan. That compares to the annual average of seven cases statewide in Wisconsin, according to Jean Beinemann, program supervisor with the Sheboygan County Health and Human Services Department Division of Public Health.

County staff went to work immediately after the first case was diagnosed to contain the spread of the disease and treat those who had come down with it.

It became an effort that involved local, state and federal officials and ultimately millions of dollars.

It became a well-coordinated effort that successfully and quickly contained the outbreak, keeping it from becoming a major health emergency.

People all across county government stepped up to become part of the effort, not just in the Division of Public Health. They went above and beyond to ensure a quick and efficient response.

It has become a textbook example of how to deal with such health situations, as county Emergency Management Director Steven Steinhardt told the County Board. “Others are going to look to Sheboygan County in the future for best practices,” he stated.

“Calls have come in from around the country in terms of how we addressed the outbreak and what we learned,” added Beinemann.

All those involved, whether their role was large or small, have earned praise and gratitude for playing a part in the successful outcome and for protecting the public health with diligence and perseverance.

One only has to look back a century or so ago to see what an unsuccessful effort to contain the disease could have led to, or what a more widespread outbreak could have meant.

It was not even a century ago that the present Rocky Knoll Health Care in the town of Plymouth was built as a sanitarium for tuberculosis victims to either recuperate or succumb in relative isolation.

One also has to look only at the developing countries of the world, where more than 9 million people a year come down with tuberculosis.

Sheboygan County was able to marshal the resources, with the help of the state and federal governments, needed to prevent a public health disaster and everyone involved in the effort deserves profuse thanks.

At issue:
Tuberculosis containment
Bottom line:
Government did it right

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