Four cases of H1N1 influenza at the Allen County Jail have been confirmed by the Indiana State Department of Health, Sheriff Ken Fries said Wednesday.
Although only four cases have been confirmed there have been multiple cases of flu-like symptoms at the jail, which meant prisoners were on lockdown in their cells from Friday until Wednesday.
According to a concerned parent of one of the inmates, the prisoners were not allowed to shower. In some cases the prisoners are three to a cell in space designed for two people. This means someone is sleeping on the floor on a mattress. The parent, who did not want to be identified, said she was told the conditions in the cells are cold and cramped. Some of the people in the jail have mental health problems, and she felt this sort of treatment was inhumane.
Fries said as of Wednesday movement within the blocks was back to normal. Currently the jail has around 700 prisoners; the capacity is 741. The reason the jail has three inmates to a cell, Fries said, has to do with what block the prisoners are in. Prisoners are designated to a block by the crime they committed. Some crimes are more common than others, leading to overcrowding.
John Silcox, director of communication for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Department, said as a precaution the health department recommended that the jail restrict prisoners from congregating in groups, to prevent spreading the disease. The lock-down, Silcox said, is how the jail interpreted those suggestions. Over the past several days Silcox said health officials have seen a significant drop in the number of cases being reported at the jail, which led to their recommendation to lift some of the precautionary measures.
Prisoners being moved to and from the courts will continue to wear surgical masks as a precaution to keep them from infecting people outside the jail.
Flu shots are still available at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health Medical Annex, 4813 New Haven Ave., for $19. Area drugstores, including CVS and Walgreens, also have vaccine available.