Rick Perry: Feds must act now to stop Ebola

The effort to contain Ebola in Texas is working, Gov. Rick Perry (R) declared Monday even as he urged the federal government to take “immediate steps” to keep infected people out of the United States.

Perry, who is leading the response to the first Ebola infection in Dallas, said border and transportation officials should be asking more questions of people arriving from West African countries where the disease is rampant.

{mosads}“Many of the circumstances that led to this situation can only be addressed at the federal level,” Perry said at a press briefing at the state capitol. “Washington needs to take immediate steps to minimize the dangers of Ebola and other infectious diseases.”

Critics say the federal government is not doing enough to screen passengers who arrive from West Africa. A Liberian man who was admitted to a Dallas hospital last week, and was later diagnosed with Ebola, had passed through airport screening undetected because he did not have a fever or other symptoms.

Hospital staff had initially sent the patient home with antibiotics even after they learned he recently traveled to West Africa. The patient, Thomas Duncan, remains in critical condition, and four people close to him are being quarantined at an undisclosed location.

Perry acknowledged Monday that the response in Texas had been imperfect, but said it had prevented additional cases. Dozens of people in Dallas are being monitored for the virus, though none have shown symptoms.

“There were mistakes made, but the process is working,” Perry said. “We don’t have an outbreak.”

Health officials have said some types of screenings, such as checking a person’s temperature, are ineffective. An infected person might not show symptoms for more than two weeks and can reduce a fever using over-the-counter pain medications.

Perry said border entry points should have quarantine stations in place “ready to care of anyone whose screening turns up a concern.” He also suggested that staffers should check the temperatures of people who arrive from the affected areas.

The governor announced a new state task force dedicated to infectious disease preparedness and response. The group, which will be led by Dr. Brett P. Giroir, CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, will advise Texas officials on Ebola and other potential outbreaks.

Perry, who is seen as a contender for the White House in 2016, had previously expressed support for the federal response to the Ebola crisis, which has required close coordination with federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Other 2016 contenders have been more critical. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have all urged the Obama administration to step up its response to Ebola.

Republicans in Congress are pushing for the administration to restrict travel from the West African countries affected by Ebola, and will hold a hearing at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Friday to highlight the issue. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argues that travel restrictions would hinder the U.S. response to the outbreak, putting Americans further at risk.

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