All News / /

Prison inmates ill again

Thirty-eight inmates are sick in the second foodborne illness to hit the prison this year.

Local and state health officials are investigating the second foodborne illness outbreak this year at the Washington State Penitentiary.

Inmates began falling ill Monday. Thirty-eight inmates were sick as of today, with 17 in the hospital and another 21 suffering similar but less severe symptoms, said Lori Scamahorn, penitentiary public information officer.

Four staff members also are sick, but it is not clear if their illnesses are related.

Most of the sick inmates are from the segregation units, where they eat from trays alone in their cells. So far, six have tested positive for campylobacter jejuni.

Campylobacter is a communicable disease that can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, cramping, nausea and vomiting. In healthy people it usually resolves itself within a few days. It can be serious - although rarely fatal - in people with other significant health problems.

All of the people diagnosed with the disease are being treated with antibiotics.

This is the second outbreak of campylobacter jejuni at the facility this year.

``Even the health officials said it is pretty unusual to have another outbreak in such a short period of time,'' Scamahorn said. ``I've been working in prisons for 25 years and never have I seen it before.''

In March, 65 inmates at the facility became ill. Of those, 27 tested positive for campylobacter jejuni and 16 others were considered ``probable'' cases.

The Washington state Department of Health recently completed its report on the outbreak. It identified the most likely point of contamination as a stainless steel food preparation table.

On March 9, bags of raw chicken were opened on the table. Officials believe celery and onions may have later been chopped on the table for tuna sandwiches that were served March 13.

All of the people who became ill after that outbreak recovered.

The penitentiary instituted changes to food preparation practices after that incident, including stressing hand washing among inmates, requiring food handlers to wear gloves during preparation and serving, and thoroughly sanitizing food preparation surfaces.

Since there has been a second outbreak, it appears that not all of those measures are being followed correctly, Scamahorn said.

"(Health officials) are looking at all the same types of issues they looked at the first time,'' she said.

Get Help

Affected by an outbreak or recall?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

Get a free consultation
Related Resources
E. coli


E. coli Food Poisoning

What is E. coli and how does it cause food poisoning? Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a highly studied, common species of bacteria that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae, so...

E. coli O157:H7

E. coli O157:H7 is a foodborne pathogen that causes food poisoning. E. coli O157:H7 is the most commonly identified and the most notorious Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serotype in...

Non-O157 STEC

Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli can also cause food poisoning. E. coli O157:H7 may be the most notorious serotype of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), but there are at least...

Sources of E. coli

Where do E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) come from? The primary reservoirs, or ultimate sources, of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC in nature are...

Outbreak Database

Looking for a comprehensive list of outbreaks?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

View Outbreak Database