Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Recommends Guidelines for Health Care Workers Returning from Ebola-Endemic Areas
Gov. Rick Perry today announced the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response has recommended guidelines for the monitoring of health care workers and others returning to Texas from Ebola-endemic areas in West Africa. The governor has directed Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey to begin implementing these recommendations.
“Preventing the further spread of the Ebola virus begins with stopping this deadly disease at the source in West Africa, and we are thankful and proud of the dedicated health care professionals who are working to care for patients in Ebola-ravaged nations,” Gov. Perry said. “I appreciate the task force’s work in identifying appropriate measures that effectively balance public health at home with our efforts abroad, and support the implementation of these common-sense measures.”
“Recent events in other states have revealed varying approaches for citizens returning to the U.S., including for those who are cooperative, asymptomatic and with low exposure risk. The task force has, therefore, recommended guidelines for Texas health authorities based upon the best scientific evidence related to Ebola, as well as recent on-the-ground experience in Texas and elsewhere,” said Brett P. Giroir, M.D., director of the task force and CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center. “These recommendations are made with the highest possible concern for public safety as well as public confidence.”
“As part of the task force, we came together with leading experts to create helpful, practical guidance for Texas,” Lakey said. “The guidance is based on science and on doing what’s right for the people of Texas and for the health care workers who travel abroad to fight this disease.”
Key elements of the recommended guidelines are as follows:
Detailed explanations of four exposure categories: high risk exposures, some risk exposures, low (but not zero) risk exposures, and no identifiable risk exposures.
Specific and detailed public health actions for each risk category.
Levels of public health actions ranging from Control Orders issued for 21-day restriction of movement (in certain “High Risk” situations) to twice-daily temperature checks for 21 days, without movement restriction (in certain “Low Risk” situations).
The task force does not support mandatory government-imposed strict quarantine for cooperative asymptomatic health care workers unless they meet the “high risk” category (one of the four exposure categories).
The task force affirms the importance of guidelines, but that guidelines are not a substitute for assessment and decision-making by qualified health professionals, who may find extenuating circumstances that could modify the level of risk and increase or decrease the level of restrictions based on factors such as details of potential exposure risk and the cooperation of the individual being monitored.
The complete report of the recommended guidelines is available at http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/2014-10-31-TX-Task_Force_Recommendations.pdf.
The task force’s formal report deadline is December 1. In addition to these recommendations, the group also released initial recommendations on October 17, including the establishment of two Ebola treatment centers in Texas.