Ebola Reaches Texas: CDC Officials Confirm First U.S. Case in Dallas

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Transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On Tuesday afternoon, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health workers announced that Texas is home to the first case of Ebola confirmed in the United States.

At a news conference in Atlanta CDC director Tom Frieden downplayed widespread fears that the disease, which has already infected some 6,500 and killed over 3,000 people in West Africa, could reach epidemic levels in this country. The patient, who has not been identified, traveled from Liberia to visit family in Dallas earlier this month, officials confirmed. The man boarded a flight to the United States September 19, landed September 20, and first started to develop symptoms around the 24th, Frieden said.

The man was apparently first taken to Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 26, but he was sent home with antibiotics. "[H]e returned in an ambulance to Texas Health Presbyterian two days later and was admitted," Bloomberg reports. He's now in intensive care at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, according to officials, who say they're working to track down and monitor anyone who had close contact with the man.

As news continues to break on the first confirmed Ebola case in the country, here are a few things you might want to know.

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Medical Marijuana Refugees Are Fleeing Texas to Help Their Loved Ones

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Graphic by Brian Stauffer
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in her apartment outside of Houston, Faith's mother looks over at the toddler repeatedly as she talks. There are no physical indicators that signal the start of a seizure, but Faith's mother can tell one is on its way.

Everything about raising Faith involves watching and waiting, and today is no different.

Suddenly, Faith's mom jumps up, her words stalling mid-sentence, and makes her way to the mat where the chocolate-haired child is lying. She plops down next to her daughter, gives her moon face and chubby-cherub limbs a once-over, and places a hand across her tiny chest, feeling for any sign of what's to come.

It's an unnerving ritual, the watching and waiting, but Faith's mom can feel what is happening in her own bones. She knows that Faith is about to seize.

Slowly, the toddler's eyes begin to flicker. The gut-wrenching convulsions quickly follow, working their way up her tiny body, while the anxiety that has worn premature lines across her mom's forehead works its way into sheer terror.

Fear fills the room, and she yells out to no one in particular.

"It's a seizure," she says. "Faith is having a seizure."

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Texas Nursing Homes Worst in the Nation

Categories: Public Health

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Photo by Ulrich Joho

Nursing homes in Texas can't seem to get it right, complained a Florida advocacy group. Texas was ranked last for the second year in a row according to Families for Better Care, receiving an walloping "F" across six out of eight categories of measurement.

According to the group's report card, staff-to-resident ratio decreased overall in Texas over the past year, resulting in less than 20 percent of the state's nursing homes scoring above average inspection ratings. Nearly 95 percent of facilities were cited for some violation of federal or state laws.

Texas' best category was a "C" in the number of facilities with "severe deficiencies," which means that only about 17 percent of nursing homes are major failures. Which is something?

"Nursing home owners and state officials can't seem to get nursing home care right in the Lone Star state," said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care. "Failing to improve the state's already dreadful nursing home record is absolutely shameful."

The group went on to scold local nursing homes for providing residents only two hours of direct care a day on average, but Texas' firm handle on last place seems to suggest there's no urgency to improve conditions in the state. If you love your elders, send them to Rhode Island, which Families for Better Care ranked first in the nation.

Dog Contraception in the Name of Love

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Photo illustration by Susan Du, "Portrait of Madame X" from Wikimedia Commons
Socialites

Maybe you saw BARC's recent cry for help, or maybe it was the heartbreaking No One's Dog photographic exhibit at Diverse Works that finally convinced you to take on a furry roommate fresh off the streets. In any case, you now realize that you are the proud guardian of a teenager bent on propagating his adorable genes, but maybe you haven't quite wrapped your mind around being a grandparent yet. You might go for puppies in the future, but that conversation is best left for after he goes to school and gets a job to help with the rent.

For the dog owners who don't want to contribute to the hordes of sad strays roaming Houston's streets, and for the dogs who are just waiting for the right significant, here are some non-surgical methods of contraception.

1. The Pill

For the ladies who are into hers and hers matching outfits, there's another way you could demonstrate solidarity with your dog. There are a variety of dog birth control pills that the owner would administer at the beginning of the lady dog's heat cycle to delay ovulation. It works similarly to human birth control pills, and side effects include breast enlargement and weight gain. Nothing new. However the pill does increase the chance of breast cancer, so vet consultation is a must.

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UPDATED: Most Texas Abortion Clinics Will NOT Close Next Week

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Photo by Francisco Montes
Texas is working on it.

UPDATE: Yeakel issued his ruling on Friday afternoon, and to the surprise of pretty much no one he struck down the requirement that all abortion clinics be certified ambulatory surgical centers, according to the Texas Tribune. The lawsuit also asked that Yeakel suspend the admitting privileges requirement for two clinics -- Whole Woman's Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso -- which were forced to close because of said requirement. Yeakel granted that request, meaning there might just be an abortion clinic option west of San Antonio within the Lone Star State again.

In his ruling, Yeakel said HB 2's ambulatory-surgical-center requirement "burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade."

Here's another choice line from Yeakel's decision:

When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas -- including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, and the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting-privilege requirement -- the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of a woman's ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to "chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe," Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 952 (2000) (Ginsburg, J., concurring), and effectively reduce or eliminate meaningful access to safe abortion care for a significant, but ultimately unknowable, number of women throughout Texas.

The decision is pretty much gilt-edge guaranteed to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, so this is not, most likely, the final word on the matter of HB2. You can read Yeakel's entire ruling at the end of this post.


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DA Candidates on Weed: Talking Points Over Data Points

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Photo by United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

Though marijuana possession remains a jailable crime in Harris County, the law of the land is shifting toward leniency for offenders. Both contenders in the November race for Harris County District Attorney have presented alternatives to convicting those caught with pot.

DA incumbent Devon Anderson and challenger Kim Ogg agree that the old ways need to change, but they clash on how much. The confusion likely stems from the fact neither candidate has the numbers to back her plan. One lacks a cost-savings analysis, and the other has provided practically useless estimates.

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Food Trucks and Restaurants Bump Against Grease, Drugs and Empty Chairs

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Photo by Susan Du
Food truck operators packed city hall for the right to feed the hungry hordes of the downtown and med center.

Let's make Houston a more walkable city, even if people are walking on their way to tacos. Or so went the thinking for dozens who showed up to Wednesday's council committee meeting in support of relaxing regulations for food trucks.

The issues on the line: whether food trucks are allowed to serve in the medical center and downtown areas; whether food trucks need to set up at least 60 feet away from each other and whether they can operate within 100 feet of chairs and tables.

The camps: food truck owners, who swarmed the public comment session, versus the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, which claims brick and mortar eateries are losing business unfairly to the trendy mobile competition.



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Houston's Top 5 Extreme Piercers

Categories: Art, Public Health

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Photo by Susan Du
Manon Masson, 19, gets an inner ear piercing at Sacred Heart Studio.

If you ever find yourself sitting in a surgical chair, sweating a little bit because you're about to have a 10 gauge needle shoved through your penis, it might help to know that the piercer has a bottle of sugar tablets in his drawer just in case you get light-headed.

The difference between a professional studio and a corner shop crawling with hepatitis could correlate with the number of stars each establishment earns on Yelp, but another way to tell is by counting how many pairs of latex gloves a piercer snaps on in the course of the job. The good ones should be fanatic about health, have a charming bedside manner and won't shy away from turning you away if you fail to shower before your appointment.

When it comes to pulling off some of the most difficult procedures known to the body modification industry, it also helps if your piercer has a sense of humor and steady hands. Say you want 5K worth of gold rings in your labia. Better research who in Houston already has ample experience doing that before signing up with any punk in a concert parking lot.

Here's the real deal.


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Chikungunya-Positive Mosquito Confirmed in Harris County

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Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Aedes aegypti, one of two types of mosquito that carry chikungunya, up close and personal.

The Houston area has always been impressively swampy, so of course the first Texas mosquito carrying chikungunya, a disease that causes high fever and severe joint pain, has been found right here in our very own mosquito-plagued backyard.

There have been rumblings about chikungunya in recent months, since the disease was confirmed in the Caribbean last year. Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services confirmed the first Houston-area case back on July 11, and there have been cases confirmed in almost every state of the country, but up until recently, the people with the disease were infected while traveling and then they brought the disease back, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there have been some locally transmitted cases in Florida, all the rest have been the fancy imported kind.


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[PHOTOS] Stop Patriarchy Protests Outside Harris County GOP Office

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Photos by Aaron Reiss

If the War Against Women is a national battle, Texas is ground zero.

That's according to Sunsara Taylor, a leader of Stop Patriarchy, a movement that is attempting end to the enslavement and degradation of women -- notably when it comes to the right to an abortion and the production of pornography.

"Roe v. Wade began in Texas, and the (pro-life constituency) plan(s) on ending it in Texas," Taylor said. "We came here to stand up against that."


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