Jail quarantine ordered for chickenpox

One inmate is infected and 13 others will be isolated for about two weeks to avoid an outbreak, a sheriff's spokesman says.

Published July 7, 2006

LAND O'LAKES - A pox is upon the Pasco County jail.

More specifically, chickenpox.

One of the county's 1,245 inmates came down with the contagious disease and requisite itching and scratching Monday, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office quickly took precautions to prevent an outbreak at the Pasco County Detention Facility in Land O'Lakes, where most of the county's prisoners are held. Corrections deputies isolated not just the sick inmate but also 13 of the 56 prisoners in the same pod.

"Those are the things that you do run into from time to time when you have a large number of inmates in close quarters," said sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin.

The 13 inmates hadn't been exposed to the disease as children, haven't been vaccinated, or don't know whether they've had the disease or been vaccinated.

They'll have to wait it out for at least 14 days to see if they show any symptoms of the viral infection.

Which is why some of them missed court appearances Wednesday. The only worry would have been if they had showed up in Circuit Judge Joe Bulone's crowded courtroom Wednesday afternoon in the West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey.

"He must be in quarantine, too," the judge said, crossing off the name of another absent inmate.

A lawyer joked that maybe she should take her child, who hasn't had chickenpox yet, to the jail.

The Pasco County Health Department's director, Dr. Marc Yacht, said the Sheriff's Office is taking the right precautions.

"You don't want any outbreaks in an inmate population," he said. "But they're doing what they have to do."

The infected inmate's identity is being withheld by the Sheriff's Office because of medical confidentiality laws. He had been booked into the jail days before he started feeling symptoms commonly associated with the viral infection: an itchy red rash of bumps that turn into blisters, fever, stomach pain and that feeling you get when you're sick.

It's easier for children to stomach the illness than adults, especially pregnant women.

"The clinical picture, the fever, the aches and pains, are a lot harder for adults," Yacht said. "One concern with chickenpox is the potential of shingles and other herpes-like infections that will be chronic in nature."

Doing time will be a lot harder for the infected inmate, who has to wait two weeks, maybe more, for his condition to run its course.

"It is a miserable thing to go through," Yacht said.