SAN QUENTIN – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, along with the Marin County Public Health Department and California Correctional Health Care Services, are continuing the investigation of the source of Legionnaires’ disease at San Quentin State Prison (SQ).
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It’s caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila found in both potable and non-potable water systems. The illness is carried via aerosolized water, such as steam, mist and moisture. It is not transmitted from person to person and has a normal incubation period from two to 10 days after exposure.
On Aug. 26, a SQ inmate was transported to an outside hospital where he was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.
As of Sunday, there are six confirmed cases with five inmates currently at outside hospitals. The additional diagnoses are the result of tests conducted over the last few days after the exposure.
In addition, approximately 51 inmates are currently under observation for respiratory illness but have not been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. All unconfirmed cases are being treated at SQ’s on-site medical unit.
To eliminate the spread of the bacteria, SQ has limited water use at the prison.
After consulting with local, state and national public-health experts familiar with the transmission of Legionnaires’, the prison resumed the use of plumbed toilets inside the facility’s housing units. Secondary water sources such as bottled water and water tanks will continue to be used for consumption until it is deemed safe to resume normal water use.
SQ officials have been in communication with the Men’s Advisory Council, a representative group of inmates who advise and communicate with the Warden and other staff on matters of interest and concern to the inmate general population.
Inmates are currently being served boxed meals to avoid exposure to steam and mist during cooking operations.
Portable shower units arrived at the prison on Saturday. SQ administrators and custody staff are coordinating to provide all inmates with showers and hope to resume out-of-cell activity as soon as possible.
SQ is a reception center for new inmates to the California prison system. Intake has been temporarily halted as the investigation continues.
All inmate visiting and volunteer programs have also been halted as the investigation is ongoing.
SQ receives its water supply from the Marin County Municipal Water District and stores the water in a three-million gallon tank on-site.
SQ houses approximately 3,700 inmates, including low-, medium-, and maximum-custody inmates as well as condemned inmates. The prison also has approximately 1,800 employees.
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