Governor Rick Perry recently announced the creation of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response and named a Texas Tech Professor to the group.

Perry created the task force following the confirmation of Thomas Eric Duncan as the first Ebola patient within the U.S. The group is tasked with assessing and enhancing Texas’ existing capabilities to prepare for and respond to pandemic diseases.

Perry said the disease represented a unique challenge and that Texas needed to continue to adapt to its realities.

This task force will develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure Texas deals effectively with any potential outbreak, building on our existing state emergency plan and will cover all phases of preparedness and response.”

Vickie Sutton, associate dean for research and faculty development at Texas Tech University’s School of Law, was named to the task force Monday, October 6.

Sutton also serves as the director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy which, according to their website, is the only center at a law school that focuses solely on issues of law and biodefense, biosecurity and bioterrorism. Sutton was previously appointed by Perry to the Texas Council on Key Resources and Critical Infrastructure Council for her expertise in biodefense law, according to a Texas Tech press release.

Sutton said she was honored by the appointment and saw the task force as an encouraging sign that Texas is prioritizing the health and safety of its people.

As Governor Perry acknowledged in his announcement, Texas is home to incredible experts in the field of infectious diseases and I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute support in my area of expertise – legal, regulatory and policy support in the discussions and activities of the task force that may result in recommendations to the governor.”

On Tuesday, October 7, one day after the creation of the task force, Perry visited the Galveston National Laboratory at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The laboratory is one of two National Bio-containment Laboratories in the United States that studies infectious diseases like Ebola.

Two members of the task force, Dr. James Leduc and Dr. Thomas Ksiazek are also member of UTMB Galveston and Perry said Texas is fortunate to have them.

Cutting-edge facilities like this are where theory becomes reality, where therapies are tested and where vaccines are found. I’m very proud that two members of the UTMB Galveston community have agreed to serve on the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, and I look forward to their contributions to this effort.”

The task force will be lead by Dr. Brett Giroit, executive vice president and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and will issue reports on their findings including legislative recommendations. The first report is due December 1, 2014 and the second February 1, 2015.

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