Texas Lawmakers to HHS: Can You Work on Some West Nile Countermeasures Now?

Twenty-one members of Texas' congressional delegation have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden to take "immediate action" to address the West Nile virus outbreak.

Even though the virus has been in the U.S. for 13 years, current control measures just prevention measures such as mosquito abatement and public education.

Texas has been hardest hit in this year's outbreak, with nearly 10 times the number of reported cases than the next affected state and 50 deaths in the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

“The situation in Texas is actually much worse than these preliminary figures indicate.  These cases only reflect 'reported cases' to health departments and there are only 61 full service local health departments within Texas’ 254 counties, significantly contributing to under reporting," wrote the bipartisan group ranging from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

West Nile has also been identified in blood donated from 97 asymptomatic patients and the infections, which are now linked to chronic renal disease, "are expected to be an ongoing problem for the people in Texas."

“We believe the recent history of this disease creates a significant public health risk of national proportions and urge your immediate attention to this issue," the lawmakers wrote. "Specifically we ask you to request the Public Health and Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) to make the development of a Food and Drug Administration approved vaccine and other medical countermeasures a public health priority.”

"...This emerging public health threat is exactly what the recently awarded federal/private centers for the development and manufacturing of medical countermeasures were intended to address."