INDIANAPOLIS -- Flu has been confirmed as the source of an outbreak at Putnamville Correctional Facility which left one inmate dead and hospitalized dozens more.
The 35-year-old inmate, co-infected with MRSA, died on January 22. Prison officials say he had been healthy. They are not releasing the name of the inmate at the request of his family.
Prison Superintendent, Brian Smith, says inmates started showing flu-like symptoms on January 16. They were kept away from the general population. On the 18th, several were transferred to Terre Haute Regional Hospital after their symptoms got worse.
In total, 35 inmates have developed flu-like symptoms. 18 were hospitalized and the rest were treated at the prison's medical observation unit.
13 prisoners are still in the hospital. Two of them are in the ICU. Indiana Department of Corrections Chief Medical Officer, Michael Mitcheff, says one is on a respirator and is very ill. The other is showing signs of pneumonia.
15 inmates remain under observation at Putnamville.
In addition, two staff members went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Both were treated and released.
The prison superintendent says about a half-dozen staff have been ill.
The chief medical officer says every year the prisons anticipate a potential influenza outbreak. They encourage everyone to get a flu shot but unfortunately many of those who are sick did not get one.
They are working together on a treatment plan and to make sure the flu doesn't spread into the community.
Authorities say what makes this outbreak unique is that it started with flu-like symptoms, but a few inmates developed rapidly progressing pneumonia.
Patients who were co-infected with the flu and MRSA were much worse.
The State Board of Health says MRSA can develop after a viral infection sets in.
Prison officials say they did not know for certain they were dealing with the flu because rapid tests came up negative. Tests at the State Board of Health were positive for H1N1, which also caused a flu pandemic in 2009.
They say they will never know the source of the outbreak. The inmates who are infected were never in one place at the same time and they are all from different dorms.
The prison's chief medical officer says it isn't unusual to have seven or eight people with flu-like symptoms, but what is unusual the time is the severity.
Visitation at the facility is canceled until further notice at Putnamville. Transfers in and out of the prison have also been stopped.
Prison officials would like visitation to resume as soon as possible but will look to State Board of Health for guidance.
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