Outbreak pulls at counties' purse strings

An emergency official said it's the same scenario as a tornado or bad chemical spill.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Area officials have identified a strain of meningococcal disease that health officials missed -- a financial strain.
Mahoning County commissioners are considering declaring a state of emergency because of the recent outbreak of meningococcal disease and Columbiana and Stark counties will be asked to do the same thing, said Walter Duzzny, executive director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.
If commissioners declare an emergency, they can collectively seek a similar declaration from the governor's office, opening the door to receive funding the state has set aside for emergencies.
"It's very similar to what we would do in the event of a tornado or a bad chemical spill. It's the same scenario," Duzzny said.
Emergency funding is based on a percentage of each county's total budget, Duzzny said.
The emergency status would apply to the entire county.
Linda Warino, president of the District 3 Ohio Nurses Association, said striking nurses from Forum Health would assist at vaccinations clinics today.
Costly disease: Duzzny said the municipalities most affected by the outbreak have sustained heavy financial burdens brought on by overtime and added fuel costs for safety and health personnel.
The meningococcal outbreak also has officials at the Mahoning County Jail taking a closer look at who's being booked.
Robert Knight, jail medical director, said new inmates who live in the western part of the county are screened for possible exposure to the illness.
One woman from the Alliance area was kept in an isolated area until health officials cleared her to be kept with the general population, he said.
The woman had already taken an antibiotic she'd received at Alliance Community Hospital.
"We are in an enclosed situation and I don't have the option of just telling these people to go home," Knight said.

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