Gov. Perry calls for Ebola travel ban, more testing centers

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Gov. Rick Perry called for a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola at a press conference Friday in which he talked about further efforts the state has taken to prevent the spead of Ebola and recommendations for better care from the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.

Along with the travel ban, the task force's recommendations include designating specific hospitals as Ebola treatment centers in Texas and calling for the legislature to give state health commissioners power to legally restrict infected people's travel.

Perry said state and national responses to Ebola cases should have generated a better protective response.

"We must admit, along the way, we have seen ample opportunity for improvement, from the CDC all the way to the hospital," Perry said. "It's indefensible that one of Mr. Duncan's nurses was allowed to fly to Ohio from Dallas after she said she had a low-grade fever."

Perry said the Texas Department of State Health Services has been in constant contact with the CDC to monitor the 79 individuals on Frontier Airlines flight 1143. Perry said the eight individuals who had the most direct contact with the nurse are being monitored by temperature and face-to-face checks with health officials.

The University also announced Friday morning that a UT student was on the flight and is being monitored for Ebola symptoms.

Perry said he met with President Barack Obama yesterday to discuss the possibility of enforcing a travel ban from countries where Ebola has spread, with the exception of health care workers.

"Air travel is in fact how this disease crosses borders," Perry said. "I believe it is the right policy to ban air travel from countries that have been hit the hardest by the Ebola outbreak."

Perry also discussed possibly putting people who have been exposed to the virus on a no-fly list and called for more testing labs in the state, other than the one in Austin.

"Texas is only one of 16 states that are authorized to conduct Ebola testing, so having additional facilities in different regions of the state would cut down on the time it takes to diagnose the illness," Perry said.

The task force will hold its first hearing on Oct. 23, where they will discuss medical and public health training. 

Brett Giroir, head of the infectious disease task force, said the task force recommends designating specific hospitals as treatment facilities, and initiating communication with UT-Medical Branch in Galveston to serve as one of two designated treatment centers for Ebola in the state.

Giror also called for greater emphasis on health care worker protection and training.

Kyle Janek, Texas Health and Human Services commissioner, said the state will focus on monitoring and tracing contacts, as well as proper disposal of medical waste. 

"Meticulous contact tracing is the key to stopping any outbreak, Janek said. "It's worked in Nigeria, and it will work here." 

Despite all the precautions being put in place, Perry still acknowledged that the risks of contracting the virus are low. 

“The most important thing to remember is that the odds of a specific person contracting Ebola are still exceptionally remote,” Perry said.