Swine Flu Strikes Inmates

The H1N1 virus is making its way behind bars and spreading quickly among inmates in custody. Quarantines have been ordered in two of the five jails where swine flu began cropping up as of Saturday night.

Sheriff's medical staffers had what they believe were good results handling an H1N1 outbreak in the county's jail system over the summer during which more than 100 inmates showed symptoms and 2,000 were exposed. Now they've got 20 'symptomatics', 200 high-risk exposures.

"This is a very aggressive virus," said Nancy Booth, R.N. "I don't want to sound pessimistic but at the same time we need to be realistic in the fact that this could become a much bigger problem."

While Tamiflu is being administered to the affected inmates, jail deputies and staffers began getting the H1N1 vaccine Monday. About a thousand doses have been set aside for them

As thousands of San Diegans wait in line for their swine flu vaccine, some 400 doses intended for inmates are expected to arrive in San Diego in about a week or two.

Even so, that shipment won't cover all the inmates in the county's seven jails. About 5,000 inmates are housed many of whom bail out, or are released in short order.

A public backlash against vaccinating prison populations early on may be giving way to a broader perspective.

Vaccines were shipped out Monday for inmates and staff at the U.S. Federal prison downtown. When it comes to distributing the vaccine, a prison spokesperson said they will follow the guidelines from the

Centers for Disease Control

on who will get priority.

In the California’s system of state prisons, there is no plan to administer H1N1 vaccines to inmates or employees as of Monday. A spokesperson we contacted was not sure when or how many doses will be made available to employees or prisoners in the near future.

The sheriff's medical team is aware of only one county inmate that was released before the inmate was known to have been exposed to the virus. Public Health officials have been notified.

All inmates released during an outbreak are given 'self-carry' medications and health center information.

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