Tuberculosis isn’t an ancient disease. It is alive and active in Lorain County, and commissioners voted Wednesday to place a renewal levy on the November ballot to fund TB care.
This past fall, voters rejected an increase that would have raised taxes by $1.92 per year for every $100,000 worth of property you own.
This time around, officials aren’t asking for an increase. They just want another five years of the TB tax that’s already on the books.
County administrator James Cordes said that if the levy fails, the money will have to come from the county’s general fund.
That’s because under Ohio law, the county government must — no exceptions — cover the cost of TB treatment.
“It will be paid for. You must pay for this. It’s a small price to keep potential epidemic disease out of our community,” Cordes said.
TB spreads through the air just like a common cold. It’s a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs, but can spread to other parts of the body like the brain and spine.
Since 2011, there have been roughly 4.4 cases of TB every year, county officials said.
“There are very resistant strains of TB out there and it wouldn’t take very much, if those strains aren’t controlled, to have an epidemic of TB once again,” Cordes said.
Commissioner Matt Lundy agreed, saying there’s a public perception that the infection has gone away. “When it does show up, boy, it can spread rapidly,” he said.
The county was collecting $700,000 several years ago, but cut the size of the levy by 60 percent when it closed down its tuberculosis clinic in 2012 and moved to Mercy Regional Medical Center to provide the same services.
The infectious disease department also provides the latest screening equipment, on-site testing, and isolation rooms.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said it’s one of the very few taxes that has been reduced.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.