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Eye On Boise

No one’s definition of fun: Swine flu outbreak at Idaho prison

Did you know that the influenza virus can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours, spreading the disease? That’s what the CDC says, and the warden of Idaho’s privately operated prison, Phillip Valdez of the Idaho Correctional Center, says he has no “no idea how we got it” at the prison south of Boise, where at least 13 inmates have been sickened so far with the H1N1 virus - swine flu - and all visitors and volunteers have been shut out for at least two weeks. “You know, I wish we could pinpoint it - it sure would make it easier,” Valdez told Eye on Boise. “But I think, to be honest with you, we’re all susceptible to it. You and I could go to a Wal-Mart store, shake a hand, touch a doorknob.” The ICC has been sanitized with cleaning chemicals from top to bottom, inmates have been educated about hygiene, and Valdez says none of the sickened inmates thus far has suffered complications. All those with the virus have suffered from high fevers that peaked on the third day; all have been quarantined.

At the ICC, which is operated for the state by Correctional Corp. of America, there are beds for 1,805 Idaho inmates, including 708 in open dormitories, in which 59 inmates share a single large dorm unit filled with bunk beds. Others are housed in two-man cells. Before the ICC outbreak was first reported July 14, one inmate at the South Idaho Correctional Institution Community Work Center, a state-operated facility also located south of Boise, tested positive for the swine flu virus in late June. That inmate was moved to an isolation unit. You can read my full story here from Saturday’s Spokesman-Review.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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