Lock-up facilities bracing for flu outbreak

One man at halfway house has swine flu

Posted: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A resident of the Gastineau Human Services halfway house has a confirmed case of swine flu, officials said Monday.

The man, whose name is not being released because of medical privacy issues, was diagnosed with the flu, also know as the H1N1 influenza virus, on Thursday, Executive Director Mike Pellerin said.

"It is just one individual and he is back on the upswing," he said.

The man was isolated in a spare apartment at the facility after the diagnosis, Pellerin said. The empty apartment has been used to shuffle inmates around during renovations of other units.

"I suspect now on through the winter we won't be doing any remodeling, just keep the apartment available should this come up again," he said.

Some inmates and staff had been wearing masks and gloves as a precaution when the flu first was detected.

"The biggest precaution that we're pursuing is just to have people wash their hands," Pellerin said. "Everything we read stresses that over and over and over again."

The staff has been concerned in recent weeks about a possible flu outbreak at the facility this winter and felt it was inevitable that swine flu would arrive sooner or later, he said.

"It's something we've all been concerned about," Pellerin said. "There was a little bit of fright at first but then people began to realize, 'Huh, so far so good.'"

There have not been any confirmed cases of swine flu at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center so far this season, Superintendent G. Scott Wellard said.

"We're constantly worried about it," he said. "We've got protocols already in place. It is a problem we are anticipating, most definitely."

The jail has a medical questionnaire that all new inmates are required to fill out to see if they have any symptoms consistent with swine flu, Wellard said.

"Our questionnaire gives us the opportunity to say, 'Hey, this guy very well has the symptoms, let's isolate him and get him to the hospital and see if he actually has it,'" he said.

If a person shows signs, he or she will not be transported to GHS, Pellerin said.

"The folks that are living here, they work in town so they are out and about," he said. "It's just as likely they pick it up at their job or on the bus or who knows where."

The city announced Monday that it will host an all-day workshop on H1N1 influenza preparedness at Centennial Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 11. The conference is designed for health care providers, employers and people that work with the public or large groups. The workshop is free of charge, but space is limited. People interested in attending should contact Michelle Brown at 586-0371 no later than Sept. 8.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or by e-mail at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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