TTUHSC West Texas Influenza Center
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Who We Are and What We Do

West Texas

Influenza virus infection is very common, infecting 20 - 40 % of the population in most years. Influenza accounts for significant morbidity and mortality and considerable economic burden. Each year, influenza infections are associated with hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths from other causes, including respiratory and circulatory complications. In the United States, influenza is estimated to annually result in more than three million hospitalized days, 31 million outpatient visits, and $10 billion in direct medical costs. Additionally, the entire world is prepared for the possibility of a pandemic influenza: a strain of influenza for which the entire population will be vulnerable. International healthcare organizations and governments are developing strategies to deal with this possibility.


In 2006, Dr. Rush Pierce led the local pandemic influenza planning efforts for the City of Amarillo Department of Public Health. Several interested Texas Tech University Health Sciences faculty members were involved in this planning process, and in subsequent educational efforts that followed. Also, a number of faculty members from various departments at the Texas Tech University School of Medicine had pre-existing clinical, research, and public health interests in seasonal and pandemic influenza. In 2008, Dr. Todd Bell and Dr. Rush Pierce began research protocols to study influenza in Texas Tech ambulatory clinics in Amarillo. Later that year, the Dean Steven Berk designated the West Texas Center for Influenza Research, Education, and Treatment (West Texas Influenza Center) as an official administrative unit within the Texas Tech University School of Medicine for research, education, and clinical care in the area of influenza.

Also in 2008, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awarded over $500,000 to the Texas Tech University School of Medicine, for construction of a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory in the Research Building on the Amarillo campus of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. In February, 2009, the West Texas Influenza Center laboratory opened. This laboratory provides the research and administrative center of the West Texas Influenza Center which conducts clinical, educational, and research activities throughout the Texas Panhandle.


The mission of West Texas Influenza Center is to provide an interdisciplinary forum at the Texas Tech University School of Medicine for research, education, and clinical care of influenza illness. The center is composed of faculty members of the departments of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology; and the Rural Health Research Group of the Marie Hall Institute of Rural and Community Medicine.


Objectives of the West Texas Influenza Center include: (1) to provide a model of care for the influenza patient using a large network of primary care physicians from West Texas; (2) to develop an infrastructure for clinical research and study of new therapies for the treatment of influenza and its complications; (3) to provide education to patients and families in order to limit the spread of influenza; and (4) to establish a clinical approach to pandemic influenza should such an epidemic occur.

In The News
Find general information for the public and recommendations for health care providers.

video link VIDEO UPDATE (Jun.11.09): The World Health Organization declared a Pandemic Alert Phase 6 - we are now under a global pandemic. This video explores preparatory steps communities can consider before a global pandemic reaches their locales.

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World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Director: Steven L. Berk, MD, Dean, Texas Tech University School of Medicine

Associate Director of Research: Todd E. Bell, MD

Associate Director of Administration: Thomas W. Hale, PhD, Assist Dean for Research, Texas Tech Univ School of Medicine, Amarillo campus

WTIC Research Group (area of expertise):

Todd E. Bell, MD, Depts of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Amarillo (hospital medicine and public health)

Steven L. Berk, MD, Dept of Internal Medicine, Lubbock (infectious diseases)

Thomas W. Hale, PhD, Dept of Pediatrics, Amarillo (pharmacology)

J. Scott Milton, MD, Dept of Internal Medicine, Amarillo (infectious diseases)

Panupong Larppanichpoonphol, MD, Dept of Internal Medicine, Lubbock (infectious diseases)

J. Rush Pierce Jr., MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

Afzul Siddiqui, PhD, Depts of Microbiology and Immunology, and Internal Medicine, Lubbock (immunology)

Yan Zhang, PhD, Dept of Family Medicine, Lubbock (health services research)


Amarillo Bi-City-County Health District

Amarillo Biosciences, Inc

Amarillo Independent School District

City of Amarillo Department of Public Health

F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health, TTUHSC

Texas Department of State Health Services, Region I

Texas Tech University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Texas Tech University School of Medicine