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Texas investigating highly contagious whooping cough at state Capitol

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Texas health officials are investigating a case of whooping cough at the state Capitol — an incident that is triggering discussions about vaccine policies in the state.

The Texas Department of State Health Services alerted members of the Legislature on Friday that lawmakers might have been exposed to the infection regardless of their immunization status if they were working at the Capitol the previous day.

A follow-up email to legislators by House Administration said the person with the highly contagious infection was a page on the House floor. Members were encouraged to contact their doctors if they felt they might be experiencing symptoms associated with the disease.

“Further updates will be provided to House membership and staff as it becomes available,” the email read.

A spokeswoman for the state health department did not immediately respond Monday to a request for information on the status of the investigation.

Whooping cough spreads from person to person typically by coughing, sneezing or being in close proximity to someone who has the disease. Infected people are most contagious up to two weeks after the cough begins.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends whooping cough vaccination for all babies and children, preteens and teens and pregnant women. But there is no vaccine requirement for House members. On Friday afternoon, state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, who has long supported vaccine requirements, suggested in a tweet that House pages be required to show proof of vaccination. And on the House floor Monday, state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said the nurses at the Capitol were offering vaccinations to interested members.

Still, some members feared that those at the highest risk for getting whooping cough — infants and those who are immunocompromised — were also the least likely to be protected at the crowded Capitol. The public health community is still dealing with the fallout from a widely debunked study linking vaccines to autism that continues to fuel fear about side effects and hesitancy about how well vaccines work. Texas parents are allowed to use medical and “conscientious exemptions” to keep their children from being vaccinated.

Outbreaks of diseases of the past like measles, mumps and whooping cough have resurfaced nationwide among people who are unvaccinated. Public health experts say “herd immunity” is important because if not enough people are vaccinated, resistance to a disease can be compromised.

“Everyone here that’s elected is an adult who can make their own decisions about what they want to do about their own medical care,” said state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, who’s authoring a bill this session requiring long-term care facilities to establish an immunization rate-tracking system of its employees. “Our main concern are the children who don’t have the ability to make those decisions and be able to control their own medical destiny.

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“There are many diseases that if an adult gets it, it’s just inconvenient and makes them sick, but if a child gets it, they die. That’s our biggest concern.”

This session, a handful of bills of anti-vaccine bills have been filed, including one by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, that would make it easier to submit vaccine exemptions. Meanwhile, an amendment filed by Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Dallas, for the House budget — set to be debated Wednesday — would require the Department of State Health Services to conduct a study on vaccination rates among child care facilities.

Democratic state Rep. Erin Zwiener of Driftwood, meanwhile, who often brings her 9-month-old daughter, Lark, to the Capitol, said she visited with her pediatrician immediately after hearing the news Friday and canceled a scheduled playdate even though she and Lark have been vaccinated against whooping cough.

She said she’s unsure if Friday’s notice will change the vaccination debate at the Capitol, but she’s hopeful the Legislature will no longer see vaccine requirements as divisive issue.

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“Now that we as a body have been touched by the worry of an exposure to something easily preventable by vaccines, I hope we can move past capitalizing on people’s fears politically and instead try to do what’s best for the health of all Texans,” she said.

Marissa Evans contributed reporting.

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Florida Republicans concoct a new scheme to make it harder for students to vote

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Florida Republicans do not want to make voting easy for college students — a demographic that leans heavily Democratic.

Former GOP Secretary of State Ken Detzner, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, took that to the extreme in 2014, with an order banning county election officials from setting up any early voting sites on college campuses. Last year, following a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters, federal District Judge Mark Walker struck down that order as an unconstitutional burden on students' voting rights. As a result, some 60,000 people were able to vote early on 11 college campuses in Florida in 2018.

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WATCH: Trump supporter arrested for smacking reporter’s phone outside Orlando rally

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A Trump supporter was arrested during an altercation with a reporter and another man outside the president's Orlando campaign rally.

Video recorded by an Orlando Sentinel reporter shows a man wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat and another man outside the Amway Center, where President Donald Trump officially kicked off his 2020 campaign.

The two men appear to be arguing with one another, although the second man also appears to be angry about something that took place inside the arena, when the man wearing the Trump hat notices the reporter recording them with a phone.

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The real threat to America isn’t Trump’s ‘deep state’ — it’s Trump’s corrupt state: Robert Reich

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Trump has been ramping up his “Deep State” rhetoric again. He’s back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats, and “enemies of the people” in the mainstream media, for conspiring to remove him from office in order to allow the denizens of foreign shi*tholes to overrun America.

But with each passing day it’s becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn’t Trump’s Deep State. It’s Trump’s Corrupt State.

Not since Warren G. Harding’s sordid administration have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.

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