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Dallas reaches end of Ebola monitoring period

Amber Vinson, a nurse who was infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, was greeted by former president George W. Bush Friday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
David Woo/Dallas Morning News
Amber Vinson, a nurse who was infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, was greeted by former president George W. Bush Friday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

DALLAS — The end of Dallas’s Ebola crisis was calmly marked Friday when the last of the 177 people who were being monitored for symptoms of the deadly virus was to be cleared at midnight.

Thirty-eight days after Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, officials expressed relief and resolve that they were prepared if anything similar — with its resulting panic, fear, and media attention — ever happened again.

‘‘It’s a time to reflect on the sacrifices of our hometown health care heroes and the city, county, and school district employees who worked so hard, along with our state and federal partners, to keep us safe during the Ebola crisis,’’ Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement, calling it an early Thanksgiving for the city.

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Monitoring for the last person who came in contact with Duncan or the two nurses who contracted the virus will end at midnight Friday. About 50 people who returned to Texas from West African countries where the virus has killed thousands will still be monitored.

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The White House said President Obama spoke to state and local officials Friday and thanked them for their leadership.

Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola on Sept. 30, leaving officials scrambling and residents fearing the worst. He died on Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. His fiancee, Louise Troh, and three others were confined to their apartment where Duncan had been staying, before they were moved to private housing.

People panicked over the possible spread of the virus. Jenkins was criticized for entering the apartment to meet with Troh, despite public health specialists saying it was safe. Some people refused to shake hands with strangers, and others kept children home from schools where Troh’s children attended.

In the end, no one in the neighborhood was infected. The two people who contracted Ebola were nurses who treated Duncan; Nina Pham and Amber Vinson have both recovered. Vinson was at the hospital Friday and received a hug from former president George W. Bush, who visited Presbyterian to show his support for the staff.

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Government officials and the hospital have acknowledged missteps in their handling of the crisis, from initially letting Duncan leave the emergency room after his first visit with Ebola-related symptoms to allowing Vinson to fly commercial to Cleveland and back while she was self-monitoring.

Vinson has said she did not feel prepared to wear the protective equipment necessary to treat Duncan.

The hospital has mounted a major public-relations campaign to apologize for its mistakes. Officials are preparing an analysis of how it handled the Duncan case, to be published next year.

And while much of the city is relieved, those closest to Duncan are still angry about his medical treatment and how some have blamed him for bringing Ebola to the United States.

With her old apartment torn apart by hazardous materials crews, Troh has had trouble finding a new place to live, as landlords fearful of the virus have refused to rent to her.

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Asked about Friday’s milestone, Troh’s thoughts were brief.

‘‘Thank God,’’ she said.