Texas Ebola task force calls for revamping state’s preparations for epidemics

EbolaTexas Ebola task force calls for revamping state’s preparations for epidemics

Published 10 December 2014

The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Responsehas called for the establishment of two specialized Ebola treatment centers in Texas, and for new methods to monitor vulnerable health care workers, especially those returning from West Africa.The state acknowledges that it alone is unable to handle an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola. The task force wants federal health and disease authorities to provide actionable information during disease outbreaks.

Shortly after Texas experienced its first case of Ebola when Thomas Eric Duncan became diagnosed with the disease on 30 September, Governor Rick Perry established the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response to help recommend protocols for dealing with future outbreaks. Since its inception, the task force, led by Brett Giroir, chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, has called for the establishment of two specialized Ebola treatment centers in Texas, and for new methods to monitor vulnerable health care workers, especially those returning from West Africa. Later in October, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston confirmed its designation as an Ebola treatment center and a collaboration between the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital System will established a second Ebola treatment facility at Methodist Hospital System’s Richardson campus.

TheTexas Tribune notes that in its most recent report, the task force recommends establishing guidelines for dealing with pets that may have been exposed to infectious diseases, a mobile application to monitor individuals likely to have been exposed to infections, and the creation of a treatment facility for children and infants. “The recommendations contained in this report represent a major step forward in protecting the people of Texas in the event of an outbreak of Ebola or other virulent disease,” Perry said of the 174-page report.

Healthcare executives across the country agree that the challenges that accompany an infectious disease outbreak extend far beyond typical public health and emergency care. One recommendation from the task force is for the state to create a stockpile of personal protective equipment for use by health and emergency workers in outbreaks. Another recommendation wants to grant the governor the authority to declare a “state of infectious disease emergency,” during which the Department of State Health Services commissioner has “leadership authority for all state and local public health policy decisions, procedures, and disease control measures necessary to contain and ultimately overcome the infectious disease emergency.” In that scenario, the state health services commissioner would have authority over how the corpse of an individual who suffered from Ebola would be disposed of – most infectious disease experts encourage cremation.

The state acknowledges that it alone is unable to handle an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola. The task force wants federal health and disease authorities to provide actionable information during disease outbreaks. For the recent Ebola case, information, at best, “was piecemeal, abstract, incomplete, and contained little actionable information such as where and how to get the therapeutic,” the report read.

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