South Carolina’s first big flu outbreak of the season has prompted state prison officials to cancel all visitations Saturday and Sunday at the Manning Correctional Institution. The minimum security prison located on Beckman Road in Columbia houses about 730 state inmates.
According to South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Josh Gelinas, inmates in one of the housing units started complaining about flu symptoms on Monday. One hundred and forty male prisoners were diagnosed with H1N1 swine flu on Tuesday.
Since then, infected inmates have been segregated from the general population through restrictions on movement and altered eating times.
On Friday, 71 inmates were still showing symptoms, but no new cases were diagnosed.
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"We believe the outbreak was contained to one housing unit. It looks like the worst is behind us," Gelinas said.
An unspecified number of inmates were given ibuprofen pain killer and a dose of the drug Tamiflu, which if given early enough after infection can lessen flu symptoms. None of the prisoners required hospitalization, Gelinas said.
The Manning facility is made up of three housing units. The outbreak occurred in the largest unit, which holds 500 prisoners.
Movement in and out of the facility is being limited. Visitations for Saturday and Sunday were cancelled. A new assessment of the outbreak will be conducted on Monday and a decision made about next weekend's visitations.
"Every season we have an outbreak, sometimes more than one," Gelinas said. Prisoners are not routinely vaccinated against the flu but are being offered vaccinations now, he said.