Inmate In Bucks Had Rare Disease He Is Recovering From Legionnaires' Disease, And Is Back In The Prison.

Posted: July 29, 1999

DOYLESTOWN — An inmate at the Bucks County correctional facility, who had been hospitalized with respiratory problems, was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, county commissioners said yesterday. The unnamed inmate was reported recovering and has been returned to the prison.

County Health Director Lewis D. Polk said an environmental firm that specializes in microbial identification and remediation would be at the prison today to investigate the source of the disease.

Legionnaires' disease - a serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infection that causes pneumonia and flu-like symptoms - is spread through moist air from contaminated water sources, such as air-conditioning systems, showers and whirlpool baths. The disease is not spread by person-to-person contact and is usually treated effectively with antibiotics such as erythromycin, county officials said.

Commissioners issued a news release, saying the inmate's was the only case of Legionellosis reported. The release did not say when the inmate was hospitalized or diagnosed, how long he had been in the county jail, or whether he had contracted the illness while in detention.

Representatives of INX Technology Corp., a Harrisburg environmental firm, were expected to take a week investigating the Bucks County case and decontaminating the jail.

``The matter is being addressed by appropriate health care professionals who are closely monitoring the situation in a prescribed manner,'' said Warden J. Allen Nesbitt.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says Legionnaires' disease most often occurs in single cases, although large outbreaks do occur. The disease was first reported in Philadelphia in 1976, when 34 people died and more than 200 others were sickened after exposure to the bacterium through a hotel air-conditioning system.

CDC says the time between exposure to the bacteria and the onset of illness is two to 10 days.

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