Calif. County Jail implements swine flu quarantine

By Steven Barrie
The Press Enterprise

INDIO, Calif. — A quarantine has been placed on a housing unit at the Riverside County Jail in Indio because some inmates in the unit displayed flulike symptoms, but it should be lifted in a day or two, the jail's commander said Wednesday.

The quarantine was put in place to reduce the risk of spreading disease to the jail's general population, said sheriff's Capt. Raymond Gregory.

He said the decision to quarantine the unit was made by the jail's medical personnel and that no diagnosis of flu - seasonal or H1N1 - was made.

"It's a precaution," Gregory said.

He said two inmates exhibited such severe symptoms that they were placed in isolation cells.

No other jails in Riverside County had quarantines, he said.

Gregory disputed accusations that the Indio jail is denying inmates their right to speedy trials by placing them in quarantine.

"When we receive the paperwork that says an inmate is suppose to be in court on a given day, if that inmate is in a quarantined unit, we'll let the court know that," he said.

The court decides whether to delay the hearing. If the hearing goes forward, he said, "We'll then ask them what precautions need to be taken, such as emptying the courtroom or putting the inmate in a mask.

The protocols in place have worked, he said.

"We've done a good job of keeping people from getting sick."

In San Bernardino County, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire said there are about a half-dozen cases of flu in each jail facility, but no quarantines are in place.

She said the cases are at normal levels for this time of year.

"We're certainly prepared for it" should the situation worsen, Wiltshire said. "We're taking all the precautionary measures" so they won't spread illness to others.

Copyright 2009 The Press Enterprise, Inc.

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