CDC advises prisons on influenza protocols

Health officials in the United States recently advised correctional facilities to consider adopting measures aimed at preventing and containing influenza among prisoners and staff.

Last year, two Maine prisons experienced outbreaks among prisoners and staff. In the wake of the outbreaks, Correctional Medical Services, which provided health services to both facilities, reported that influenza vaccination rates among prisoners was extremely low, according to UPI.

CMS said that inmates had less than 10 percent coverage against influenza, and while rates among corrections officers were unknown, they were also believed to be low.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised correctional facilities to offer universal vaccination for inmates, to conduct respiratory etiquette training and to make vaccination records available and accessible.

In early March 2011, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a 55-year-old inmate with a history of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was admitted to an intensive care unit. The prisoner suffered from severe acute respiratory illness and tested positive for H1N1 influenza A.

The same day, Maine CDC was notified of a second ill inmate in a second facility. The previously healthy 29-year-old man died the next day. Testing indicated that he was infected with influenza B. Autopsy results showed the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia, UPI reports.

Neither patient was vaccinated against influenza. Shortly after the two incidents, 40 inmates from the first facility and several more from the second facility reported ill with respiratory symptoms.

CMS did not have the sufficient resources to screen inmates and staff in order to determine the full extent of the illness and did not have the staff available to handle the increased capacity, according to the CDC.