Press Release: Gov. Rick Perry today announced the creation of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, which will assess and enhance the state’s existing capabilities to prepare for and respond to pandemic disease, such as the Ebola virus. The governor named Dr. Brett P. Giroir as director of the task force, heading up a team of internationally renowned experts in epidemiology and infectious disease.
“Over the past several days we have learned a lot about the unique challenges of situations like this, and it’s important that we continue to adapt our response to these realities,” Gov. Perry said. “This task force will develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure Texas deals effectively with any potential outbreak, building on our existing State Emergency Plan and will cover all phases of preparedness and response.”
The governor also called on the federal government to immediately begin enhanced screening procedures at all points of entry, including obtaining additional information, checking temperatures and staffing quarantine stations to help prevent the disease from entering the country.
The task force will provide expert, evidence-based assessments, protocols and recommendations related to the current Ebola response, and develop a strategic emergency management plan for incident command teams and their partners at the state and local levels of government. This plan will build upon the existing State of Texas Emergency Management Plan, which addresses multiple aspects of preparing for, responding to and recovering from public health and medical crises in the state.
“We live in an interconnected world, where an outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere. As a result, control of future potential disease outbreaks will present even greater challenges,” Giroir said. “Preparedness requires clear, decisive, and prospective management aimed not only at rapid response, but also long-term solutions. 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.”
In addition to developing a comprehensive plan to ensure Texas is prepared for the potential of widespread outbreak of infectious diseases, the task force will serve as a resource for Texas leadership and citizens, as well as leaders of other states.
The task force will be comprised of Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey, as well as public health experts, epidemiologists and leadership from state agencies that would be involved in the response to a pandemic event. Members of the task force are as follows:
- Dr. Gerald Parker: vice president, Public Health Preparedness and Response, Texas A&M Health Science Center. Dr. Parker will serve as deputy director of the task force.
- Dr. Tammy Beckham: director, Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory and the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, Texas A&M University
- Dr. Peter Hotez: founding dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine; professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology; President, Sabin Vaccine Institute
- Dr. Thomas Ksiazek: virologist and an expert in the field of Epidemiology/ecology and laboratory diagnosis of hemorrhagic fevers and arthropod-borne viral diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch Sealy Center for Vaccine Development
- Dr. James LeDuc, Ph.D.: director, Galveston National Laboratory; professor of Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Program on Global Health, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity
- Dr. Scott Lillibridge: professor of epidemiology and assistant dean, Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health
- Dr. Victoria Sutton: Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development; Director, Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy, Texas Tech University School of Law
- Richard Hyde: executive director, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
- Tim Irvine: executive director, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
- Nim Kidd: chief, Texas Division of Emergency Management
- Col. Steve McCraw: executive director, Texas Department of Public Safety
- Maj. Gen. John Nichols: Adjutant General of the State of Texas
- Lt. Gen. Joseph Weber: executive director, Texas Department of Transportation
- Michael Williams: commissioner, Texas Education Agency
The task force will issue written reports on its findings and recommendations, including legislative recommendations, to the governor and Legislature. The first report is due by Dec. 1, 2014 and the second by Feb. 1, 2015, with the potential for additional reports as the task force deems necessary.
To view the governor’s executive order creating the task force, please visit here.