Members of Texas' congressional delegation are urging federal health officials to make the development of a West Nile virus vaccine a top priority after this year's deadly outbreak.
Twenty-one members of the state delegation, including U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, made the request in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden.
"We write to urge immediate action in addressing the West Nile virus outbreak in Texas and across the nation," they wrote.
The outbreak totaled 4,249 human cases in the U.S., including 1,520 in Texas, as of Oct. 9, according to CDC figures. It is blamed for 545 deaths so far this year, including 58 in Texas.
McLennan County has seen 45 reported cases and one death, with the most recent case reported Oct. 2.
In their letter, the House and Senate members urge federal health officials to place priority on developing a federally approved vaccine and other medical countermeasures.
"Indeed, this emerging public health threat is exactly what the recently awarded federal/private centers for the development and manufacturing of medical countermeasures were intended to address," they wrote.
In June, Texas A&M University was awarded a federal contract to develop one of three national Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing.
In a joint news release Monday, Flores and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, said they think the center is prepared to work with the federal government and industry to pursue promising West Nile vaccines and countermeasures.