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Democrats Say Texas Travel Unsafe

July 17, 2000

HOUSTON (AP) _ A Democratic National Committee warning that traveling in Texas may be hazardous to your health _ intended as a slap at Gov. George W. Bush _ brought a stern warning Monday from a Houston health official about injecting politics into public safety.

``Public health is too serious an issue to politicize, especially the health of our children,″ said Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the Houston health department.

The DNC’s Web site features an advisory warning unvaccinated tourists to stay out of the home state of Bush, the likely GOP presidential nominee. The DNC cites a study released this month showing Houston with the lowest immunization rate for any large city.

According to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s fourth largest city is ripe for an epidemic because only 67 percent of its children are vaccinated.

Almost 75 percent of Texas children between 19 and 35 months old, compared with the national average of 80 percent.

State GOP spokesman Robert Black said it was the latest in a line of ``petty potshots″ the Democrats have taken at Texas. ``Texans don’t appreciate it.″

The advisory was a tongue-in-cheek effort to highlight ``a deadly situation in Texas,″ said Jenny Backus, a DNC spokeswoman.

Houston city councilman Chris Bell said the city’s efforts to publicize the immunization program was slashed after the city lost federal funds to support the program.

Texas tourism officials said the phony health advisory shouldn’t hurt tourism in the state, which has surpassed Florida as the second most popular tourist destination in the country, according to state economic development officials.

``I thought it was pretty funny,″ said Gwen Spain, spokeswoman for the Economic Development Commission. ``If anything, Bush’s candidacy will help tourism by attracting attention to the state. It is like that old marketing adage, ’Just spell my name right.‴

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