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Officials: Number of county inmates with H1N1 virus now at 20

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Posted: Friday, July 3, 2009 10:00 pm

The number of San Joaquin County Jail inmates being treated for the H1N1 virus is now at 20, public health officials said Friday.

None of the inmates have actually tested positive for the virus, but other flu types have been ruled out, said County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Furst. The lack of confirmation is due to an overwhelming number of cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu, so California does not have the resources to test every sample, she said.

So, technically, the inmates only have "probable" cases of H1N1, not "confirmed," as the Sheriff's Office had stated in a press release issue Tuesday evening, announcing that 12 inmates were sickened.

Only four inmates were even tested for the virus.

"When there's an outbreak of anything, anywhere, we get a handful of organisms to see what we're dealing with," Furst said. "Everybody has the same symptoms; we don't need to test everybody."

All of the inmates exhibiting symptoms were isolated and were still undergoing treatment Friday, said Correctional Officer Kim de la Cruz.

Currently, 17 people in San Joaquin County have been confirmed as having H1N1, according to Public Health, but the realistic number is much higher, Furst acknowledged. The county tested until health officials determined H1N1 was "widespread," she said.

"For the most part, all the influenza that's around right now is H1N1," Furst said.

Now, Furst said, the main testing focus is on pregnant women because they are at higher risk, health care workers, those in hospitals and those living in close quarters such as care homes and jails.

The general treatment for H1N1 is Tamiflu, which the affected inmates are currently taking.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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