One Inmate Dead, Others Being Treated for Flu Symptoms at Indiana Prison

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(CNN) — Inmates in a western Indiana prison have fallen seriously ill from flu-like symptoms, and one prisoner has died, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

About 25 inmates are being monitored closely in the health care unit at the Putnamville Correctional Facility near Greencastle, and 11 are being treated there, Ike Randolph said.

On Monday at least four inmates were in the intensive care unit at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, Randolph said, and 14 inmates were being treated at the hospital’s detention center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with the Indiana Department of Health to test the rest of the prisoners at the medium-security facility which holds about 1,500 inmates.

The inmate who died was “already in fragile condition” before he got sick, Randolph said. An autopsy has been performed and results should be known Tuesday, he said.

In accordance with federal privacy law, the deceased prisoner’s name is not being released, Randolph said, but the man is a Mexican national. Mexican authorities have been notified and are expected to retrieve the body to give back to the inmate’s family.

Prisoners began exhibiting symptoms on Friday, Randolph said.

“It seemed to spread quickly,” he said. “When you have a lot of inmates in various states of health with various backgrounds, it can be hard to pick up patterns, but this was clearly spreading. It was clear we had a problem.”

Putnamville Correctional has a staff of doctors who are working constantly to treat inmates, he said. And officials are trying to stop the spread by distributing face masks and sanitizing hand wipes. Common areas have been wiped with bleach, Randolph said, and at least 100 air filters in the prison have been replaced.

Although the prison isn’t allowed to release names of inmates who are being treated due to federal health privacy law, officials are still trying to soothe worried family members who have heard about the illness and call the facility.

“If we have a mom who is really anxious and calls the prison wanting to know if her son is sick, we will tell that offender, ‘Call your mom and tell her you’re OK,'” Randolph said. “We were getting those calls all day yesterday.”