As his state becomes the center of Ebola fears in the U.S., Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced on Monday the creation of a task force that, among other things, will heighten security and health screening at the state’s points of entry.
Speaking at the Texas State Capitol building, the Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that Washington isn’t doing enough to combat Ebola and recommended that Customs and Border Patrol agents enhance their screening process – even going so far as to suggest that authorities take the temperature of people entering the country.
Perry is not the first conservative lawmaker to raise fears about the spread of Ebola across the U.S.’s border, but his comments come amid an uproar over a Dallas hospital initially sending patient Thomas Eric Duncan home only with antibiotics, even though he told staff that he had recently been in Liberia.
“There were mistakes made, but the process is working,” Gov. Perry said. “We don’t have an outbreak.”
Republican senator and another prospective GOP presidential candidate, Rand Paul, had previously raised fears that infected individuals could enter the country through the U.S.-Mexico border.
The “border is not only a danger for national security purposes, it is also a danger for a worldwide pandemic should it occur,” Paul told talk show host Glenn Beck last week.
Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia wrote to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month about his fears that undocumented immigrants might be bringing "swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis” into the U.S.
"As the unaccompanied children continue to be transported to shelters around the country on commercial airlines and other forms of transportation, I have serious concerns that the diseases carried by these children may begin to spread too rapidly to control," he wrote.
Echoing Perry’s statement that there won't be an outbreak of Ebola in Texas or the rest of the U.S., the nation’s top doctors sought to reassure a wary public that the U.S. has things under control.
"[To] people who are scared, I say, 'We don't take lightly your fear. We respect it. We understand it,'" Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told the Associated Press.
But Fauci emphasized that the United States is different from African nations where fragile health care systems have been overwhelmed by Ebola. Scientists know how to stop the virus from spreading with adequate resources, he said.
Even though Duncan's case won't necessarily be the only case of Ebola diagnosed within the United States, Fauci maintained that here, "We won't have an outbreak."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.