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Texas Health Official Says Most Hospitals Can't Handle Ebola

Gov. Rick Perry’s recently appointed task force for infectious diseases held its first public hearing this morning in Austin. 

The 17-member task force discussed ways to diagnose and isolate patients with Ebola more quickly. State Health Commissioner David Lakey said most hospitals can't handle Ebola patients and infected people should instead be treated at specialized care centers.

His comments are a dramatic departure from past federal assertions that nearly any American hospital can cope with the virus.

"That strategy needs to change," said Lakey.

The group already designated two hospitals as specialized Ebola treatment centers and called for a contingency plan for "the unlikely event of a widespread outbreak of Ebola" in Texas.

Infected nurse Nina Pham is in good condition, while a family spokesperson for Amber Vinson says doctors do not detect the virus in her body. Emory University Hospital has not confirmed her condition. 108 people are still being monitored in Dallas by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other recommendations from the task force include creating a "second layer" of regional hospitals to care for Ebola patients if both specialized facilities are full and ensuring Texas doctors can treat children with the virus.

The task force also wants to empower the state health commissioner to restrict travel and movement of Texans exposed to Ebola.

The CDC announced new measures yesterday for travelers returning to the U.S. from Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa. Travelers will be monitored by the CDC for 21 days. The new measures begin on Monday and will continue until the outbreak in West Africa is over. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Here's a look at some of the main events over the past several weeks. Hover over the right-hand side of the timeline to advance it.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.