An editorial from today’s Bismark Tribune hits the nail squarely on the head–the job of public health departments is to protect and oversee the public’s health.  That’s why it is somewhat frustrating that many months after 150 people became ill from Salmonella infections after consuming or being exposed to contaminated food prepared by an unlicensed caterer in North Dakota, no official action has been taken against the business.

For a quick recap: "the unlicensed caterer continued to prepare and serve food after being issued a cease-and-desist order by the First District Health Unit following the outbreak one weekend in Washburn and before the second bout of food poisoning the following weekend."

"The board of directors of the First District Health Unit met in July, when all of the facts may not have been in, and decided to take not action at that time. That board isn’t scheduled to meet again until sometime in February. While the Tribune can appreciate that the board of directors have a schedule they might want to adhere to, the caterer, victims and public deserve a certain timely attention. Public health issues are just that: "public" health issues."

"For those that might believe this is much to do about nothing, consider the cost for hospital visits and testing paid for by the victims and their health insurance companies. One out-of-state family said they spent about $4,000 in airline fares and hotel rooms dealing with their part of the crisis, and that doesn’t include the cost of hospitalization of the husband and wife, both in their 70s."

"And then there’s the physical price of being sick."

"The public needs to know that the Health Unit and other public health officials are focused on public safety. Good intentions and professional distance are fine things, but there’s something to be said for taking care of business. The board of directors of the Health Unit should have met again months ago but now should meet as soon as possible and resolve all parts of this issue."