The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says a new possible case of the tick-borne Bourbon virus has been reported in a St. Louis County adult. The latest victim reports being bitten by a tick after spending time outdoors in the southwest St. Louis area. The department says the individual has recovered from the suspected virus.
The number of Bourbon virus cases in Missouri is unknown. House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, and other members serving on his panel have been trying to find out how many Missourians have tested positive for the potentially deadly illness.
“That issue is not put to bed yet. It’s not something we are just going to turn a blind eye to,” Fitzpatrick tells Missourinet in a live interview. “It’s not an issue that’s just going to go away I don’t think.”
The state agency says releasing the details Fitzpatrick and other members want would violate health information laws. It also says revealing the data could lead to the public figuring out the identities of the victims.
“Unless everybody that tested actually tested positive and unless we know exactly who was tested, I don’t think that’s a very valid argument,” Fitzpatrick says. “We have reporting on diseases on a county-by-county basis. There are instances you can site where the department has published one instance of mad cow disease. If you can report where there’s one person that had this disease in a county, why can’t you tell us statewide how many people have tested positive for the Bourbon virus?”
The department’s refusal to provide the details has prompted state budget leaders and the legislature to propose reducing the agency’s funding by $1 million next fiscal year. The proposal is in the governor’s hands.
Fitzpatrick goes on to say there’s been a “series of bad decisions” on the issue by the agency. Dr. Randall Williams is the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. He cites Williams being sued in his former position in North Carolina for not releasing information about a water issue.
“It seems that he prefers not to release that sort of information,” Fitzpatrick says.
According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Williams has been accused of disregarding the potential danger of using well water near coal-fired power plants in that state. Williams served as North Carolina’s public health director from July 2015 to December 2016.
One of the most vocal critics of the Missouri department’s refusal to turn over the information is former House Budget Committee Vice Chairman Justin Alferman, R-Hermann. He now works for Governor Mike Parson and might be able to pull some strings.
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