Garfield County jail deals with flu among inmates, staff |

Garfield County jail deals with flu among inmates, staff

John Gardner
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – With less than the expected number of H1N1 vaccines having been distributed through the nation, many areas are dealing with high numbers of reported flu cases. Jails and prisons are having a tough time dealing with the increase in flu among inmates and staff as well.

A concern for Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario is the potential security risk if a high number of detention deputies come down with the flu this year.

“Our facility, as well as any others, risk potential safety and security matters if staffing is not adequate due to large numbers of staff being ill and unable to work,” Vallario wrote in an e-mail response to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. “Our concern is that the vaccine did not get distributed in time and the [Center for Disease Control], in their infinite wisdom, decided that law enforcement, particularly detentions/corrections, is not on the priority list.”

The Associated Press reported Monday that a state prison in Limon had been partially locked down and programs suspended due to a suspected swine flu outbreak among inmates at the facility.

State corrections officials told the AP that 17 inmates in the Limon Correctional Facility, which is about 90 miles east of Denver, have flu-like symptoms, and another 53 have similar symptoms but no fever. The Limon facility has 953 male inmates.

While the Garfield County jail has experienced some cases of flu this fall, Vallario said it’s just a situation his staff will have to deal with.

“We are dealing with the same issue and potential issues as is any other jail that is experiencing the flu,” Vallario wrote.

“We have to work through it since we really don’t have any alternative,” he added.

So far, Vallario said, the jail has already seen “some cases of flu with inmates and staff,” but Vallario would not disclose the exact number of flu cases and did not say if any were determined to be the H1N1 strain.

Vallario did say that the jail does not test for H1N1 specifically, but only for type A influenza, which includes both the seasonal flu and H1N1. And the jail does have a full-time medical staff that treats ill inmates.

Many inmates have appeared in court over the past week wearing surgical masks covering their faces.

The Post Independent has also received at least three phone calls from people who have relatives or acquaintances in jail who have reported that the jail is dealing with a potential outbreak of flu this year.

However, Vallario said that this year is not really that different than past years.

“So far, we have not hit any type of crisis situation,” Vallario wrote, “but rather are seeing the same thing we would for seasonal flu.”

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