Drop in public-health funding spurs rise in contagious disease

King County no longer has the resources to track and treat cases of noncontagious tuberculosis and do other proper disease monitoring.

As the state Legislature hammers out its final budget deal, it must identify and respond to the need for additional funding for public health. The health of all of us depends on it.

Recent news that the University of Washington and Public Health — Seattle & King County would be screening more than 100 individuals who had come into contact with someone infected with Tuberculosis (TB) is just the latest in a string of TB cases throughout our region. Earlier this year, more than 200 students in Renton were screened for TB after they were exposed. And last fall, 100 medically complex and vulnerable individuals were screened at 1811 Eastlake, a supportive-housing facility in Seattle.

These are just a few examples of the rise in communicable-disease cases throughout Puget Sound.

Earlier this year, King County was dealing with 10 concurrent outbreaks. Disease investigators were battling cases of TB, hepatitis and Legionella. STDs are on the rise and hundreds of children have suffered from mumps this school year. All while a record-breaking number of flu cases filled many hospitals to capacity, forcing them into a “Code Purple” — meaning patients had to be diverted to other facilities due to overcrowding.

This rise in disease across our region is not just bad luck. It reflects our state’s steady decline in funding for public health. As funding has decreased, populations have increased and diseases have grown more complex. This means public-health departments across our state are struggling to provide the most basic services with very limited resources — and too…

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