May 28, 2006
The Reporter (Vacaville, CA)
More than 1,300 inmates in 11 state prisons have been diagnosed since mid-May with a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms.
Nearly three dozen of these are inmates at California Medical Facility in Vacaville.
The illness, caused by a bacteria called campylobacter, was first reported at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy on May 16, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Inmates infected with the bacteria suffer symptoms that include nausea, headaches, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms usually last up to five days.
Between May 16 and May 23, 1,344 inmates and 14 correctional staffers at 10 prisons came down with the disease, said Thornton.
Prisons with confirmed cases include: CMF, 32 cases; Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, 379 cases; Folsom State Prison, 10 cases; California Rehabilitation Center, 4 cases; California State Prison, Sacramento, 75 cases; Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, 200 cases; Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, 400 cases; Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, 94 cases; Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, 130 cases; Wasco State Prison in Kern County, 11 cases; and Avenol State Prison in Kings County, 9 cases.
State prison officials say they have not heard of any cases at California State Prison, Solano.
But prisoner activist Cayenne Bird with UNION, United for No Injustice Opression or Neglect, said she believes the problem could be more widespread.
“The UNION families want a full investigation – now!” she said in an e-mailed newsletter to members. “Prisons who have it need to stop transfers. What is being done to restore electrolytes? What about prisoners who cannot walk to the clinic? And those who cannot walk to chow? What is being done for them?”
Thornton said the main treatment for the disease is to keep the inmates hydrated and isolated so that they cannot infect others.
At CMF, Dionne Hudnall, public information officer, said inmates with the symptoms are given plenty of fluids and “the proper tools to clean their cells so that they do not re-infect themselves or others.”
The bacteria can be transmitted from animals through food, unpasturized milk or contaminated water sources.
“We still don’t know where it originated from,” said Thornton. “We are working with county and state health officials to find out. In the meantime, the best prevention is to be careful with food handing, and observe good hygiene.”