Health & Science

Houston Congresswoman Wants National Task Force To Fight Zika Virus

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee met with state and local officials in Houston to discuss how to fight the spread of the virus.

Dr. Peter Hotez, Director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and Stephen Williams, Director of the City of Houston’s Health Department, participating in a meeting about prevention of the Zika virus held in Houston.
From left to right: Dr. Peter Hotez, Director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and Stephen Williams, Director of the City of Houston’s Health Department, participating in a meeting about prevention of the Zika virus held in Houston.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held a meeting Thursday in Houston with state and local officials to discuss how our region and the nation should prepare to combat the combat the Zika virus.

Jackson Lee represents Texas’ 18th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She says the fight against Zika has to involve several fronts, including public information campaigns.

But prevention is also crucial. That’s why Jackson Lee proposes that Congress create a National Task Force. The focus would be to help stop the spread of the virus, which has been linked to birth defects in Latin America.

Educating medical professionals about the virus would be one of the main goals.

“They should be attentive to those travelers when they come back and make a determination and assessment whether they should be tested,” Jackson Lee said.

It’s uncertain how far it will go in Washington D.C. Congress has yet to approve a $1.8 billion request from President Obama that would fund surveillance and rapid-response programs, as well as research to develop a vaccine against Zika.

The lack of a vaccine, along with the rapid evolution of the disease, are two reasons why medical experts stress people need to be proactive.

“We cannot spray our ways out of this. We have to really think about education and outreach and personal protection, and source reduction,” said Umair Shah, M.D. He’s the executive director of Harris County’s Public Health and Environmental Services.

As of March 10th, the state of Texas has had 22 cases of the Zika virus, 10 of them in Harris County. The Texas Department of State Health Services regularly updates information about the virus on the website Texaszika.org.

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

General Assignment Reporter

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz is originally from Spain. He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast news and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master's degree...

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