Texas creates new task force to combat Ebola virus and other infectious diseases
On October 6, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the creation of a new state task force to combat infectious diseases. The group will build on current efforts to prepare for and respond to pandemic diseases such as the Ebola virus, the governor said at a press conference.
The first U.S. case of Ebola was confirmed September 29 in Dallas. Health officials have been monitoring nearly 100 people for possible infection.
Perry appointed Dr. Brett Giroir, the CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center, to direct the task force. In addition to setting the agenda locally, the group will work with leaders across the country to prepare for and respond to health crises.
"We live in an interconnected world, where an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere," Dr. Brett Giroir said.
"We live in an interconnected world, where an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere," Giroir said. "The timelines for containment of a serious outbreak mandate that we are fully prepared for the worst-case scenario, no matter what form that may take."
The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response includes physicians, academics, epidemiologists and state agency leaders.
"Incidents like this are certainly not limited to just Texas, and unfortunately they will likely happen elsewhere sooner or later," Perry said. "There's only so much that a state can do, however, and many of the circumstances that led to this situation can only be addressed at the federal level."
Perry called for "enhanced screening procedures" at all points of entry into the United States, asking the federal government to check temperatures, obtain additional travel information and set up "quarantine stations."
"Washington needs to take immediate steps to minimize the dangers of Ebola and other infectious diseases," Perry said.
"Over the course of the last 14 years, we have had multiple disasters, some man-made, some natural. And in each one of those, we learned how to be even better prepared."
Perry talked about "space shuttles falling out of the sky," Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of Queen Isabella Causeway as learning experiences. "There were errors made in practically every one of those, but what we learned out of that and what we put into place has made this state as prepared as any state in the nation to deal with disasters."
Perry commended local officials and health workers for their response to contain the disease.
"We don't have an outbreak. We have one event that is being handled properly," Perry said. "We are monitoring the individuals and this team that has been put together here, if there are more capable men and women in this country, I don't know who they are."
"If this had to happen somewhere in the United States, I wish it hadn't have been here, I wish we weren't having to face this but it has to be somewhere and I'm glad it is in Texas because I have the faith that we will deal with it as well as any place in the country."