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State May Double Funds to Fight Tuberculosis in County

October 14, 1994|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The growing number of tuberculosis cases in Orange County may cause state funding for TB programs here to double this year, health officials said Thursday.

The state Department of Health Services has already offered the Orange County Health Care Agency an additional $150,000, and may contribute another $275,000 within three weeks, state health officials said.

If approved, the cash infusions would increase state contributions to the county agency's TB programs to about $905,000. Last year, the agency received about half that, officials said.

"Certainly, we are looking for all the help we can get to beef up prevention and control," said Roberta Maxwell, the health agency's program director. "It's a big help."

Last year, Orange County reported 431 cases of active TB, a 16.2% jump compared to 1992's total of 371 cases.

The $150,000 will allow the county to hire another nurse and a data entry clerk, both to monitor and follow up on active TB cases. It will also help pay for meals and transportation for low-income TB patients and for health education programs aimed at high-risk populations in the county.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is expected to accept the $150,000. And state officials are now reviewing the county's application for the $275,000, which would come from a new $17-million state program to battle TB.

Meanwhile, the health agency today is expected to release results from TB testing at Orange Coast College. On Tuesday, 92 students and instructors underwent skin-test screening, which involves pricking the forearm. On Thursday, medical officials examined the subjects' forearms for a reaction indicating exposure to TB.

The testing follows the discovery that a Los Angeles woman who had attended classes at the college this summer has communicable TB. The woman, however, is believed to have contracted the disease after leaving the college in August.

If students or instructors test positive, they will need a chest X-ray to see if the disease can be detected in the lungs. A sputum test would then be required to determine whether the disease is communicable.

Many people who have positive skin tests never develop active tuberculosis. The disease, which usually affects the lungs, is transmitted by air from person to person, often through coughing, sneezing, laughing or singing, health officials say.

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