Governor Jay Nixon says public health response has improved during his tenure in office.
The governor’s been hosting roundtable discussions around the state this week with representatives from local health agencies and hospitals, along with public safety officials.
Nixon claims upgrades have come through better coordination among emergency responders and improved capabilities from health providers. He says responding to public health needs is a constant challenge. “It’s always a changing field” said Nixon. “You don’t know what the next Ebola is, or the next H1N1. And as far as food borne illnesses, many of those happen from things that are brought into the state from outside areas that our folks don’t either have the chance to investigate before it starts or afterwards.”
The Missouri Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City is one of the few facilities in the country with a federal designation to test both Zika and Ebola. The classification was made through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Two people have been tested at the facility for Ebola, with negative results for both. Since this year, the Jefferson City lab has tested nearly 500 individuals for Zika with 30 positive cases. A release from the governor’s office says the CDC designation means the lab is able to ensure Missourians get “timely and accurate results”.
Nixon says there’s not a major concern the Zika virus will breakout in Missouri. “We’ve had people with Zika that have come here” said Nixon. “But as far as mosquitos, we’ve worked very closely, for example, with Missouri State University to make sure that if something does come, we’ll be in that situation to get those mosquitos controlled. But the bottom line is it has not come this far north.”
The discussions have also focused on the state’s response to the devastating Joplin tornado in 2011. A roundtable Thursday in Lee’s Summit will center on advances made in sheltering and feeding evacuees of natural disasters.
Nixon denies he’s using the discussions as a victory lap for his accomplishments, instead saying people need to have confidence in public health response. “I think sometimes, as we saw with H1N1, people began thinking that, in essence, everybody’s going to die, when you have public officials and others talking about what the worst case scenario would be.”
The H1N1 Pandemic broke out in 2009, shortly after Nixon took office. During that time, the state partnered with local agencies to distribute 1.6 million doses of H1N1 influenza vaccines.
The current roundtable discussions are part of Nixon’s “Safer, Stronger Missouri Week”.