Tag Archives: Ebola in Texas

Are Texans At Greater Risk Of Disease Outbreaks?

Even with the surprising and unsettling mistakes that have transpired as Dallas County officials try to contain the nation’s first confirmed Ebola case, people are still at far reduced risk when compared to nations with less advanced health systems or monitoring techniques.  With the eyes of the nation fixated upon the spread of this disease, Texans should know that every effort is being made to combat any further impact on the state’s population.

But Ebola is not the only infectious disease out there.  Lots of other health risks exist, many of which are not put in the national focus as has been done with Ebola.  Meanwhile, Texas remains the state with the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.  Eventually a correlative question has to be asked…

With so many of our poor left uninsured due to the state’s refusal of healthcare expansion, is Texas also left at greater risk of a major disease outbreak?  

It’s a tough question to answer, but the first step is to take a look at the state’s uninsured population, and realize that they aren’t just “lazy people with no job on Welfare”.  From the Texas Medical Association, here are a few interesting facts about the state’s uninsured population…

According to a summary of national data by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), groups with a high likelihood of lacking health insurance include:

  • People in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level;
  • Hispanics;
  • Young adults, age 19 to 34;
  • People in families in which the adults worked either part-time or only part of the year; or
  • Individuals in fair or poor health status who are significantly more likely than others to be uninsured for longer periods.

Texas workers are less likely to have employment-based health insurance coverage than those in other states. 50 percent of all companies in the US offer health coverage for their employees.  In 2012, Texas ranked 42nd in the nation, with only 45 percent of Texans having employment-based health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 63 percent of the uninsured have at least one family member who works either full-time or part-time in 2011 to 2012.


The uninsured are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of health care and are more likely to die from health-related problems. They are much less likely to receive needed medical care, even for symptoms that can have serious health consequences if not treated. About one in four Texans lives at or below the poverty level; for children, it’s nearly one in three.

So just think about that for a second… a large number of the uninsured population in Texas are people that are working, but likely in low-wage jobs.  They are waitstaff at restaurants, taking clothes at the dry cleaners, preparing delicious beverages at a favorite coffee place.  In other words, Texans without insurance are you and me. When they , we, are healthy,  everyone’s risk of health risks are lowered.

But when those Texans are sick and don’t go to get early treatment for fear of cost, everyone is put at greater risk.  And while it’s true that the simple act of having more people covered can never guarantee that people will take responsibility and see a health professional when needed, healthcare expansion would give a critical option to those that are now solely relying on the Emergency Room for their needs.  Early diagnosis saves lives, and is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

As voters make their decision this Fall, healthcare will undoubtedly be a central issue to those Texans that need it.  What people may not realize though?  That same decision could help protect us all, not just those that would be direct beneficiaries of expansion.

Why An Ebola Outbreak Is Less Likely In The US

After news broke that the first official case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, it’s understandable that many in Texas and across the country are concerned that the virus could spread rapidly like what is happening in Africa.  The patient is from Liberia, came in contact with the virus there and traveled to Texas before showing any signs of infection.  But as Susannah Locke with Vox shares, that worst-case scenario is extremely unlikely in the United States…

The current Ebola outbreak has already infected thousands of people in West Africa — including several Americans who were diagnosed there and then brought back to the United States for treatment. But this is the first time a person has been diagnosed with the disease inside US borders.

According to the CDC, the patient had recently been in Liberia and flew to the US before he was symptomatic or contagious. He later fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Texas, where he was placed in isolation.

It’s not surprising that an Ebola case has finally popped up in the United States — especially with air travel as common as it is. But it’s also not a disaster. Experts say that public-health officials would likely be able to contain any Ebola outbreak in the United States pretty quickly.

Why is that? One big reason is that Ebola is not especially contagious, as diseases go. You can only get Ebola by coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already showing symptoms. That makes it relatively slow to spread (unlike, say, the measles).

More importantly, the United States has ample health resources and infection-control measures to contain outbreaks. This is in stark contrast to West Africa, where poverty and weak health care systems have allowed Ebola to spread and claim the lives of more than 3,000 people.

“Ample health resources” is something of an understatement.  As a health official from Doctors Without Borders shared in a recent PBS News Hour interview, there stark differences among the healthcare infrastructure here and in West Africa. “Some of these countries, entire countries, have less doctors than, say, a single hospital in a major Western city.”

Beyond sheer numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital facilities, cultural differences also lessen the chances of Ebola becoming a stateside epidemic, like the people in urban areas not living in as close proximity to each other, or a different concept of personal space.  And of course, people in the United States are more educated about basic health concepts like washing ones hands after an interaction with someone who appears to be sick.

But even with all of these practices to seemingly stop Ebola from ravaging our shores, it’s never too early to take extra precautions. The most important defense there is from any potential health threat is accurate information.  While Texas health professionals stand on the front lines of this epidemic, here’s what you can do to spot possible symptoms of the disease, as well as protect yourself, via the New York Daily News

Ebola 101