Updated: Dan Patrick Has Ebola Covered

Know what this Ebola crisis needs? A little more Dan Patrick, of course.

Update: Gov. Rick Perry and his presidential hair have returned from their European jaunt and the two (Perry and his hair) held a press conference on Friday to reassure us all that while Patrick and Sen. Ted Cruz have opinions about what to do, Perry is the guy getting things done.

Perry stated that he had joined Patrick, Cruz and the rest of Republican chorus in calling for President Obama to enact an air travel ban from the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak (he actually asked Obama to do this during a phone call between the two on Thursday.)
"Air travel is how this disease crosses borders, and it's certainly how it got here to Texas," Perry says, though he went on to stipulate there should be exceptions for aid workers.

Plus, Perry had news from his Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, created earlier this month. Despite Patrick's claims in a release issued this morning that the task force wouldn't have recommendations until December, Perry had a whole list of things his team is already recommending:

"Establishment of two Ebola treatment centers in Texas; Establishment of specialized patient transport teams; Expanded training of infectious disease protocols for health care workers;
More testing labs for infectious disease; and increased authority for Department of State Health Services chief to issue enforceable control orders."

Those who have been worrying about the dreaded Ebola can stop right now because the guy who will most likely be the next lieutenant governor of Texas has determined both the cause of the epically mishandled Ebola mess and the solution. Yep, you can turn those frowns upside down and put down the industrial-sized barrels of hand sanitizer because state Sen. Dan Patrick has got this one.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Patrick explained that while Texas has been at the center of the repeatedly mismanaged containment of the nation's first Ebola patient, the fault for the many, many missteps lies with the federal government. Specifically:

"It's no surprise the first case of the Ebola virus to present itself in the United States was in Texas. We are this nation's leading economy and a hub for international travel. This otherwise enviable position in the global economy comes with unwanted risks.

It's also no surprise that Washington has failed us once again; failure to properly screen all travelers at ports of entry, and a failure to provide meaningful support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

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CDC Director Grilled by Congress Over Ebola Mess

Categories: Public Health

Photo from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday, and boy, was it rough.

Frieden, previously known as the guy who urged New York's then-Mayor Bloomberg to go after cigarettes, soda sizes and trans fats, is now the face of the organization that appears to have repeatedly dropped the ball since the country's first Ebola case was confirmed in Dallas on September 30.

Things looked bad enough for Frieden after another of Thomas Eric Duncan's nurses tested positive for Ebola this week. Then it turned out that the nurse, Amber Vinson, flew from Cleveland to Dallas with a 99.5 degree temperature the day before she started showing clear-cut symptoms of the disease. And then it turned out that the CDC had cleared her for travel, a move that flies in the face of the agency's own protocols.

And then Frieden and other public health officials had to appear before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday. There are probably worse circumstances under which to head into a grilling by a House subcommittee, but off the top of our head, we can't think of any.

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Dallas Nurses Say They Were Totally Unprepared for Ebola Victim

Categories: Public Health

Photo from Centers for Disease Control

Remember when the official word was that Ebola in the United States was completely under control? Two weeks ago, the public was told that Thomas Eric Duncan, the country's first Ebola patient, was immediately quarantined after he went to Texas Health Presbyterian the second time with Ebola symptoms. Still, back then it seemed believable that officials in Dallas and the state had Ebola covered.

Flash-forward to today: Duncan died of the disease last week and now two of the nurses who treated him have tested positive for Ebola. Other nurses are now telling the public that conditions at the Dallas hospital were anything but safe.

An unspecified number of nurses told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday that they were "unsupported and unprepared" to handle an Ebola patient, according to the New York Daily News.

See, the initial impression from officials was that Duncan and his family were clapped into quarantine as soon as they arrived back at the hospital on September 28 and told doctors that he'd just come from Liberia and that they suspected Ebola. But Dallas nurses say that wasn't what happened. In fact, Duncan wasn't isolated until hours after he arrived at the hospital, and only after a supervising nurse demanded it. Up until then, Duncan was sitting near seven other patients.

The Centers for Disease Control advises impermeable gowns that cover the entire body and all exposed skin, but nurses claim staff was provided with "flimsy" gowns that didn't cover the neck, head or lower legs, according to the Daily News. They tripled their gloves to handle the patient, but had to close the gloves with surgical tape.

The CDC also advises healthcare workers to wear face shields for protection, but the nurses say they were only given surgical masks. Some wore face masks with plastic shields to protect their eyes, but that wasn't standard at the hospital, according to the Associated Press. Healthcare workers didn't receive full-body gear until Duncan's second day in the intensive care unit. Even worse, Duncan's lab samples were sent through the same hospital tube system used by the entire hospital without any warnings or precautions taken.

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Surprise! Supremes Step in and Block Parts of Texas Abortion Law

The Supremes have surprised everybody by agreeing to look into the Texas abortion clinic case.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in and blocked theFifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had shuttered all but eight of Texas' abortion clinics.

On October 2, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling allowing state officials to immediately begin enforcing the second part of House Bill 2 (the bill that state Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered against), while the state fought to overturn U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

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Riverside General Hospital Heads Await Fraud Verdict

Photo by Susan Du
The Reverend Robert Gilmore, a Third Ward resident who protested Riverside's loss of federal funds in August, says the hospital's troubles resulted in a drain of drug treatment services throughout the city.

Arguments in the trial of Riverside General Hospital administrators accused of pilfering millions in a federal healthcare scam concluded Monday as the jury left to decide whether Earnest Gibson III, his son and two other defendants bought and sold patients by the head to cash in on Medicare and Medicaid funds.

FBI agents arrested the Gibsons after they raided the historic Third Ward hospital's office in February 2012 as part of a nationwide Medicare fraud purge. The feds found that Riverside routinely paid local group homes to refer mentally ill and drug addicted patients to its programs, but the question remains whether the hospital's top administrators were in on the conspiracy.

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UPDATED Ebola Fact vs. Fiction

Categories: Public Health

Photo from the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases
Ebola virus particles budding from an infected cell.

Update, Oct. 15, 2014, 9:15 a.m.: Texas Health Presbyterian officials confirmed Wednesday morning that a second healthcare worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed U.S. Ebola case, has contracted the disease. Speaking in at a press conference Wednesday morning with Dallas officials, Dr. Daniel Varga, Presbyterian's chief clinical officer and senior vice president, stated, "A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause some of our colleagues to contract this disease, but it's clear there was an exposure somewhere sometime in their treatment of Mr. Duncan."

On Tuesday, CDC director Thomas Friedan conceded that more should have been done to respond to the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States, saying, "We did send some expertise in infection control, but I think we could, in retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight, have sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed."

Hospital and CDC officials say they still don't know exactly how Presbyterian workers were infected.

Original story:

Ever since Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in Dallas from Liberia and was confirmed as the first case of Ebola on U.S. soil at the end of September, there's been a strange evolution going on both about Duncan's case and about how prepared the United States was for its first Ebola case.

The basic story has stayed about the same: Duncan helped take a pregnant woman to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. He abruptly quit his job and hopped a plane to Dallas to be reunited with a woman he planned to marry and to meet his son, according to the New York Times. Duncan then got sick, went to Texas Health Presbyterian and was initially tuned away. On his second visit, he was diagnosed with Ebola. Despite eventually receiving an experimental drug, Duncan died last Wednesday.

That's the short version. However, it's the details that have been hazy, and the way things happened has shifted and changed as the full story continues to trickle out.

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First Locally Transmitted Ebola Case in Dallas

Categories: Public Health

Photo by the Centers for Disease Control

In a disturbing turn of events, a woman in Dallas has become the first person in the United States to locally contract Ebola.

The woman is a healthcare worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The employee provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan after he came back to the hospital in late September. Duncan started showing Ebola-like symptoms shortly after he arrived in Dallas from Liberia, where Ebola is running rampant. Though he reportedly showed up at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital emergency room with a fever of 103 degrees, he was initially turned away when he was likely at his most infectious. He was hospitalized about two weeks ago and died last week of the disease.

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Cypress Patient Is Being Monitored for Ebola

Categories: Public Health

Thumbnail image for ebola.jpg
Northwest Cypress Medical Center officials say they're monitoring a patient who is at "extremely low risk" of having the Ebola virus.

According to a statement the hospital provided to KTRK, local health officials are monitoring the patient, who recently traveled to West Africa, out of an abundance of caution in light of the country's first Ebola case landing in Dallas late last month (and, we're assuming, in light of the many bungles that quickly surfaced after all those government assurances that everything was under control).

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Sure, Most Abortion Clinics in Texas Have Closed. But There Are Still Plenty of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Texas made a completely, totally unbiased "information"manuel, and boy do crisis pregnancy centers use it.

Half of the abortion clinics in Texas closed last year and all but eight or less were summarily forced to shutter after a panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that House Bill 2, the state law restricting (or as some like to claim "regulating") abortion clinics, could go into effect last Thursday. Right now there isn't an abortion clinic west or south of San Antonio and more than 900,000 women pretty much don't have access to an abortion provider.

But never fear. Crisis pregnancy centers are still going strong. There are only two abortion clinics left open in Houston alone but there are more than six crisis pregnancy centers in the area and dozens of CPCs in Texas. Here's a little information about the centers, just in case you ever stumble inside one hoping to evaluate your options (like abortion) during a "crisis pregnancy."

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How Contagious Is Ebola?

Categories: Public Health

Don't go watch this. It's not that bad yet.
It's been odd to watch the folks up in Dallas handle being ground zero for the first Ebola case in the United States. Ebola is a nasty, frightening disease, but Dallas and state officials have been cucumber-cool about the whole thing. First, they had a patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who recently arrived from Liberia with the disease, but everything was under control. Then they had a patient with the disease who had been turned away from Texas Presbyterian Hospital on September 25 because somehow the information was not relayed that the man had just arrived from Liberia. (Authorities have been telling everyone for two days that Duncan came in on September 26, but they somehow got that wrong and have yet to explain how the mistake happened.) Then he had only been in contact with a few people. But of course it turned out there were about 100 "potential or possible contacts," according to a release from the Department of State Health Services.

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