San Quentin State Prison brought in additional correctional officers to manage its inmates following the hospitalization of one inmate with Legionnaire’s disease and the sickening of more than two-dozen others. The potentially fatal disease spreads through contaminated water, and the prison quickly shut down its water system once the diagnosis was confirmed.
No staff have been sickened, and the prison is taking full precautions including halting visitations. Prison officials quickly brought in a 3,800 gallon water tanker, 2,800 liter bottles of water, and an assortment of containers holding an additional 380 gallons of water. Correctional officers were escorting the prisoners to about 100 temporary toilets until the restrooms reopened the following day.
Fortunately, officials at San Quentin routinely prepare for a number of contingencies and were ready to face this life-threatening emergency. Correctional Lieutenant Samuel Robinson praised the “exemplary preparedness” of San Quentin’s staff members in an email to KRON.
Legionnaire’s has been in the news following a recent outbreak in New York City that killed twelve people and was traced to a roof top air conditioning system. Legionella bacteria cause the disease by multiplying in water and spreading through water molecules. People that inhale the water can come down with the more mild Pontiac fever or the more serious Legionnaire’s disease.
According to the Los Angeles Times, public health records in California show 348 reported Legionnaires’ disease cases in 2014. More than half of the cases were in Los Angeles County, and two-thirds of those affected were 65 or older. The California Department of Health reported 82 deaths from the bacteria between 2009 and 2012, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fewer than half of the cases of the disease are ever reported.