Dallas-Area Taxpayers Paid More Than $825K in Ebola Costs

August 15, 2015 Updated: August 15, 2015

DALLAS—Dallas-area taxpayers paid more than $825,000 in costs related to last fall’s Ebola outbreak that left a foreign visitor dead and two hospital nurses infected, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Most of the costs, approximately $623,000, were paid by Dallas County, according to The Dallas Morning News. The figures came from documents obtained by the newspaper under the state’s open records laws.

The city of Dallas paid more than $160,000 in direct costs, including the expense of hazardous response teams and supplies. The rest includes some school districts paying for hazardous materials responses and cleanup.

Thomas Eric Duncan, visiting Dallas from Liberia, died at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas on Oct. 8. Two nurses caring for Duncan, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, contracted Ebola but survived.

“It was very fast-paced,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings led the response to the Ebola crisis. “It was less expensive than it could have been as far as the dollars spent.”

Rawlings acknowledged “moments of expense and drama” but said the bottom line was better than expected.

“Anxiety does not equal expense,” Rawlings said. “There was plenty of anxiety but that does not cost us money. … In the big scheme of things, this did not cost taxpayers from a city budget standpoint all that much.”

The biggest single local cost was $257,000 incurred by Dallas County for decontamination of areas visited by Duncan, who prior to being hospitalized had stayed in an apartment complex, the newspaper reported. The state reimbursed the county for most of those costs.

The city’s expenses included care and monitoring of Pham’s pet dog, Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel that also contracted Ebola, but survived.

City costs associated with the canine’s care, more than $27,000, were later largely covered by private donations, Rawlings said.

“That was not a controversy in my book,” Rawlings said. “I knew one thing — we had to keep that dog alive. There was no debate about that. … That was the best money we spent.”