AUSTIN, Texas — As news broke over the past month of the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States, a Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan, followed by Duncan transmitting the virus to at least two of the health care workers who treated him, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, many have criticized the actions taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal public health agency whose mission includes combating infectious disease. For one State Representative, however, the blame lies more with the State of Texas than the federal government.
Public anxiety is high regarding Ebola, and the CDC has constantly found itself in the crosshairs of critics, for reasons that include comments made by CDC Head Dr. Thomas Frieden that sounded like he was blaming Pham for her disease by committing a “breach in protocol,”multiple medical experts disputing the CDC’s statements regarding their protocols for protective gear and hospitals capable of containing an Ebola outbreak, Frieden’s admission that it was necessary to “rethink” how we approach treating Ebola, and then this week, the news that Vinson was on a commercial flight the day before she reported symptoms, even after reportedly making several calls to the CDC to ask if it was safe to fly. Be that as it may, State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), says that focusing on the CDC is “missing the point,” according to a report by the Houston Chronicle, and there are serious problems with Texas’ public health system that must be addressed in the next legislative session.
“The immediate responsibility for containing emergency health situations is the state, not the CDC,” Coleman told the Chronicle. “That’s how the system works. The reality is, if there was a slow or poor response, it’s the state’s fault.” Coleman blamed budget cuts in recent sessions that reduced staff and funding in county and state public health programs, noting that he had concerns about these agencies’ ability to respond not only to Ebola, but also future outbreaks of contagious viruses.
Coleman announced a meeting scheduled for Monday for the House County Affairs Committee, which he chairs. Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry is returning to Texas after cutting short his European economic development trip, and, according to a press release sent by his office late Thursday, will hold a press conference Friday at the Capitol to “update state response and prevention efforts against Ebola, and announce initial recommendations by the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.”
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Governor’s office for a response to Representative Coleman’s criticisms, but did not receive a reply by press time.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.