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Last Dallas Ebola Contacts Cleared

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas's Ebola crisis ended Friday as the last known contact with the late Thomas Eric Duncan cleared the 21-day incubation period for the deadly disease.

"Thanksgiving has early to Dallas County," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Approximately 177 contacts have been monitored since Oct. 1, when Duncan was diagnosed and isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Duncan died on Oct. 8. Two of his nurses - Nina Pham and Amber Vinson - contracted Ebola and survived .

The contacts include medical staffers at Presbyterian who treated the three victims, their immediate families and members of the public who may have exposed when the three were symptomatic. The last person on the watch list was a Presbyterian employee who handled infected medical waste on Oct. 17.

Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lackey said he was "happy to reach this milestone, but our guard stays up."

Lackey has criticized school districts who closed schools for cleaning out of fear of possible exposure.

"Because no Ebola patients have been present at a Texas school, there is no reason to close or clean a building or bus beyond regular cleaning procedures for schools," Lackey said in October.

The Royse City Independent School District, northeast of Dallas, closed Davis Elementary and Ruth Cherry Intermediate schools for one day out of an "abundance of caution" due to a Presbyterian nurse living with students from both schools.

Belton Independent School District closed several schools after two students were aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas with Vinson.

Texas officials have since cleared all of the passengers on Vinson's flights to and from Cleveland, DSHS said.

Outside of Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control has identified 50 people who returned to Texas from West Africa - the epicenter of the disease.

"One of those travelers, a Central Texas nurse who cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, is considered to be at 'some risk' of exposure to Ebola and has agreed to stay home until she reaches the 21-day mark," DSHS said. "The rest are considered to be 'low risk' contacts and are being monitored for symptoms."

Dallas County has racked up at least $1 million in costs for containing the disease.

Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan praised the "courageous nurses and so many others [who] put the needs of a patient first and valiantly worked to save the life of a man who faced, and ultimately lost, his battle with this disease."

Texas Health Resources is the corporate parent of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where Duncan died.

The hospital has faced intense criticism for its handling of the crisis - from turning away Duncan during his first visit to the emergency room to how the two nurses in protective gear contracted the disease.

It also was accused of not treating Duncan properly because he was poor and black . Berdan said the hospital has been "humbled and empowered with a new strength of purpose" through the experience and thanked the community for its "heartening" support.

"We are committed to using what we have learned to advance our mission and vision in the communities we are privileged to serve," Berdan said. "We hope our experience will also help those in the global community who are working so hard to beat this terrible disease in West Africa."


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