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Staph infection outbreak hits three inmates



Published: Wed, April 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The infection, often found in hospitals and prisons, can be fatal.

MERCER, Pa. -- The County Prison Board will have an emergency meeting today to discuss a staph infection outbreak among inmates.

One county jail inmate is hospitalized and two others are being treated after all three tested positive for the staph infection, which is resistant to some antibiotics.

County Jail Warden Jeff Gill said the jail is being disinfected, inmates have been temporarily forbidden to shave and linens and clothing are being washed more frequently to try to stop the spread of the infection. All who may have come into contact with the three men are being tested, officials said.

Gill said the infection, called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, came to light when a jail nurse called him after examining a suspicious wound on an inmate April 13. After testing a culture from the wound, the state health department told the county Friday that it was staph, a potentially fatal infection.

District Attorney James Epstein, who also is Prison Board president, said he doesn't believe the hospitalized inmate is in any danger. Gill said he expects the man to be released to the jail by Friday, and likely will receive intravenous therapy for six weeks. Officials would not identify the infected inmates or the hospital where the one is being treated because of medical confidentiality laws.

Allegheny deaths

Gill said such infections are becoming increasingly common in jails. Last month, according to the Associated Press, two female inmates at the Allegheny County Jail died from a different staph strain.

Although Mercer County sends its inmate overflow to other county jails, Gill said Allegheny is not one of them and that the infection did not come from there.

He added, however, that coincidentally, an inmate brought to Mercer for a court hearing from Allegheny County after the outbreak began tested positive for a different staph strain and was returned to Allegheny County.

Epstein said he was told that the infection usually is spread by bodily contact.

He added that the symptoms include skin boils, irritations resembling insect bites, lesions or severe rashes. If treated promptly, the infection can be cured, but it can sometimes progress to pneumonia or flu-like symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, staph infections can be spread through bodily contact, cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions and poor hygiene. It occurs frequently in hospitals and health care centers.

The infection is resistant to penicillin and amoxicillin, but can be treated with other antibiotics.




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