A bad case of a norovirus, sometimes called the stomach flu, among several dozen prisoners has led to a quarantine in a division of the Cook County Jail affecting 700 inmates, officials said.
The quarantine means that the inmates in the minimum and medium security divsion will essentially be stuck in their cells and will not be able to have visitors, according to a press release issued by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.
The quarantine was called after inmates began getting sick on Monday and the numbers continued increasing. As of Wednesday, there were between 30 and 40 inmates confirmed with the flu virus, said Dart Spokesman Frank Bilecki.
Officials said the quarantine will remain in place until further notice.
While the quarantine is in effect, the division’s living, dining, shower, toilet, and all "high touch surface areas" will be disinfected, according to the statement. Linens have been changed and are being laundered separately, according to Dart's office.
The virus is also playing havoc on work programs involving the inmates in and outside of the jail.
Many of the inmates work in the jail’s kitchen and assist in transporting meals to other prisoners but will not be able to do so until the quarantine is lifted, Bilecki said.
It might also affect the jail's bottom line as the departmenet may have to pay overtime for staff who may be called in to fill the gap, said to cover food transportation and cleaning responsibilities if the outbreak continues to other divisions, he said.
The sheriff's office is watching to make sure that the outbreak doesn't extend to staff and other inmates in different divisions, Dart said.
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