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Legionella found at state prison in Somerset County

Four inmates sickened in past few weeks

By Marc Stempka

SOMERSET TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said Tuesday that four cases of Legionella were confirmed among inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset.  

Officials said in a release that officials with the PA Department of Corrections and the PA Department of Health have taken steps to determine the cause of the bacteria and manage the situation at the prison.

"We are taking this situation very seriously," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in the release. "While the public is not in any danger, we believe in being proactive. Our priority is to prevent further cases."

Special Pathogens Laboratory, based in Pittsburgh, was hired by the Department of Corrections to conduct an environmental survey and provide outbreak response measures and medical management, officials said.

Officials said the first Legionella case at SCI Somerset was diagnosed July 15, the second case July 21 and the third and fourth cases discovered July 24.

Department of Corrections officials said the prison water was tested for Legionella July 26. Preliminary results showed no Legionella in the prison water distribution system, but bacteria was found in the water from the prisons cooling towers.

"All involved inmates have been treated with effective antibiotics, either in the prison's infirmary or at a local hospital, and are doing fine," SCI Somerset Superintendent Gerald Rozum said.

Legionella is not spread person-to-person, so isolation and quarantine are not necessary. Prison officials said employees and inmates have been restricted from drinking water and have been provided bottled water for drinking.

Officials said testing was always conducted at the prison, that such tests have been increased in frequency and that water treatment will continue as testing indicates.. Eradication of the Legionella from the water supply was under way.

SCI Somerset is located in Somerset Township, housing more than 2,300 inmates and employing approximately 600 individuals.


 
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