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No new reports of swine flu virus at county jail

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Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 10:00 pm

A dozen San Joaquin County Jail inmates are still receiving treatment for the H1N1 virus, but nobody else has gotten sick, officials said Wednesday.

The virus, also known as swine flu, was confirmed Tuesday afternoon, and the county's Public Health Department recommended that all 12 inmates be isolated to prevent the illness from spreading.

It was the first time Dr. Karen Furst, the county's public health officer, can remember her office being asked to help with any illness outbreak at the jail.

The 12 inmates, all male, are not allowed visits or contact with other inmates until they are no longer contagious, said Correctional Officer Kim de la Cruz. None of the inmates had pending court dates, so that was not an issue.

Not everyone diagnosed with the illness needs anti-viral medication, Furst said Wednesday.

"But in this setting, because we really do want to try to decrease the spread and contain the number of people getting sick, we did recommend putting all of the sick inmates onto Tamiflu - the medicine for this virus - for five days," she said.

Those with H1N1 need to be isolated for seven days after the symptoms start, or 24 hours after the symptoms end, whichever is longer, Furst said. Most people are fine after seven days, unless they have other immune problems that make their bodies weaker, she added.

No correctional officers have gotten sick, and all are being educated about health safety, de la Cruz said. Everyone in the jail, staff and inmates alike, is encouraged to regularly wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing, she said.

The jail does occasionally see outbreaks of illnesses, because everyone is in close quarters, de la Cruz said. But most sicknesses are caught quickly, she said, since a nurse is on duty at all hours, and the county's hospital is less than two miles away.

Though H1N1 caused worldwide hysteria, people with any kind of illness should consider whether they might be contagious, Furst said.

"We're trying to emphasize that if people are sick with a fever, cough, sore throat, they should not go to work, wherever they work," she said.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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