The stomach flu has led authorities to quarantine 700 inmates at Cook County Jail in Chicago. Inmates started displaying symptoms on Monday, and the numbers of those affected have steadily increased.
Medium and minimum security inmates will be confined to their cells and will be denied visitation until the quarantine is lifted. Authorities are unsure when that will happen as there have been around 40 new cases of the flu confirmed since Monday.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the quarantine does not only affect the 700 inmates at Cook County Jail. Jobs regularly completed by the inmates will now be the responsibility of jail staff.
Staff at the Cook County Jail will be tasked with keeping surfaces sanitized during the quarantine. As mentioned in a press release, all dining, restroom, shower, and living quarter surfaces must be regularly disinfected.
Additionally, staff will be expected to work in the jail’s kitchen and deliver meals to the quarantined inmates. Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart has reportedly approved overtime to account for the additional work.
The stomach flu has hit the entire US especially hard this season. As reported by Decoded Science, this year’s most prolific strain is a form of norovirus called GII.4 Sydney. The new strain is “highly contagious” and can be spread quickly where large groups of people are gathered.
The virus is spread when people neglect to wash their hands. It can be spread to surfaces or into prepared food and then on to someone else.
The Cook County Jail, by quarantining 700 inmates and keeping surfaces sanitized, hopes to slow down and eventually stop the spread of the virus. Precautions are also being taken to prevent staff from becoming ill.