Jailhouse Rocked By Flu, Now Under Quarantine

By Kyla Gardner on February 6, 2013 2:10pm 

 Some inmates are quarantined after a stomach flu outbreak at Cook County Jail, 3015 S. California Ave., officials said Wednesday.
Some inmates are quarantined after a stomach flu outbreak at Cook County Jail, 3015 S. California Ave., officials said Wednesday.
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Flickr/Zol87

CHICAGO — About 700 inmates at Cook County Jail are under quarantine after an outbreak of stomach flu at the facility, officials said Wednesday.

There were 30 "full-blown" cases, and about 10 more inmates complaining of stomach pains Wednesday, said Frank Bilecki, spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's department.

There were less than 10 inmates with the flu Monday, but the drastic increase Wednesday led to the quarantine, Bilecki said.

The quarantine has led to complications for daily operations at the jail.

"The effect that it has on our entire process...is pretty drastic," Bilecki said.

Most of the inmates in the affected division — Division II — are under minimum security, Bilecki said. Many work in the jail's kitchen and help transport meals but will not be working during the quarantine, according to the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

The kitchen positions have been taken over by some prisoners under medium security. In addition, about 200 inmates coming in and out of the jail daily for court appearances have not been allowed to be kept in the minimum security area, Bilecki said.

"We're needing to rearrange the rest of the jail to make room for those" with minor offenses, Bilecki said.

The area's living, dining, shower, toilet and "all high touch surface areas" are being disinfected, and all linens are being washing separately from regular laundry, according to a sheriff's office release.

Visitation is not allowed for the inmates in the quarantined division, officials said.

Some staff members have called in sick, and overtime costs may increase if the quarantine continues, Bilecki said.

Those diagnosed with the flu can be carriers of the virus for up to two weeks, Bilecki said he was told by the jail's doctors. He doesn't think the quarantine will be lifted soon.

"Until numbers [of cases] start dwindling, I don’t see it being pulled," he said. "Right now the numbers are just going up."

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