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Ebola preparedness steps include mobile app to track possible patients

A state task force has called for a mobile app to monitor potential Ebola patients in real time as one of several steps to contain the deadly virus, if Texas should get another patient.

The app, already in development with help from Google, would allow public health officials to monitor the temperatures — and other symptoms — of people who have had contact with an Ebola patient, such as health care workers. It is being tested now, according to the state.

The report released Thursday adds to a series of recommendations that the task force had established in October, which designated two Texas locations to isolate and treat Ebola patients. Other recommendations include identifying protocols and centers for treating children and pets in the event of an outbreak.

The recommendations come from the 17-member task force appointed by Gov. Rick Perry this fall, when Texas became the first state in the U.S. where a patient was diagnosed with the disease.

“Hundreds of public health and emergency professionals, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers responded to the Texas Ebola emergency rapidly and heroically,” said Brett Giroir, director of the task force and chief executive officer of Texas A&M Health Science Center, in a news release. “Yet, as this emergency has illustrated, the challenges of a potentially catastrophic infectious disease outbreak extend far beyond routine public health and emergency care.”

The task force also recommended adding a third treatment facility — the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston — that will specifically treat children exposed to the deadly disease. In October, Perry announced that two Texas locations were designated to isolate and treat Ebola patients — the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a Dallas-area facility created by a partnership involving UT Southwestern Medical Center, Methodist Health System and Parkland Health and Hospital System.

Thursday’s report also called for state guidelines and quarantine facilities for handling and testing pets that have been exposed to Ebola. A veterinary first responder team and more educational resources should be available, the task force also recommended.

The task force recommendations also include: Stockpiling more personal protective equipment, guidelines and protocol for monitoring Texans returning from Ebola-stricken West African countries and triaging them, and granting authority for the governor to declare a state of infectious disease emergency.

The state was officially declared Ebola-free on Nov. 7 after a Dallas area nurse recovered from the virus. She and another nurse both contracted Ebola after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who had flown to Dallas before dying eight days later at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Hospital.

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