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Breathe easy

Friday, June 01, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by NEIL STEINBERG Sun-Times Columnist

Opening shot

The case of Jeffrey Speaker, the Atlanta attorney flying about the world with his case of untreatable tuberculosis, of course brought to mind my favorite entity of local government: the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District.

"We're still here," said Dr. Susan Marantz, medical director of the district, a living monument to the ability of governmental entities to outlast the problems they were created to address.

We may not have sanitariums anymore, but we have a district, with offices in Oak Park and satellites in Harvey and Des Plaines, all battling the scourge of tuberculosis.

"We see patients every day," said Marantz. "About 125 active cases a year, though we need to screen two or three times as much in suspect cases."

So far, they have not had to forcibly quarantine patients.

"We have been lucky," she said, explaining that usually people voluntarily agree to quarantine.
If not, "there's a whole system set up," she said. "I literally need [only] to make a phone call."

Times change, even in Cook County government, and the sanitarium district, redolent as it is of
spittoons, cane-backed wheelchairs, and Eugene O'Neill in a straw hat, is being absorbed, at long last, by the Cook County Health Department.

"I don't know if we're going to be division or a program," she said.

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