The Salinas Californian reports that illness has spread at the Monterey County Jail, leaving about 75 inmates with diarrhea and stomach cramping in what the county Health Department says might be a food-borne outbreak.
Reports of sickness at the jail infirmary started Sunday, and by Monday morning, 20 inmates had complained of diarrhea and bloody stool, the jail announced.
As of Monday night, 75 cases had been reported, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“We’re waiting to see what the cause is,” said Chief Deputy Bert Liebersbach of the custody operations bureau.
Jail staff members are treating inmates at the infirmaries in their housing areas and advising them to drink plenty of water and wash their hands frequently, Liebersbach said.
The cases came from eight to 10 units in the main jail, with a few cases in the women’s section, he said.
“We can be pretty confident that it’s a food-borne illness,” said John Ramirez, assistant director of environmental health at the Monterey County Health Department.
The jail had another outbreak in June, when at least 112 inmates complained of flu-like symptoms including nausea, diarrhea and high fever. Investigators determined that infection began after some inmates hoarded food to make tamales that later became spoiled, Liebersbach said.
“We’re trying to find out if it was that same scene or if it had to do with the kitchen foods,” Ramirez said.
As of now, it appears the illness might have started with a chicken dish that was improperly cooked, he said.
Investigators have narrowed down the cause to salmonella, shigella or campylobacter, Ramirez said. But they have not determined anything for sure.
The jail’s Philadelphia-based food provider, Aramark, did not return calls on the incident.
“Who knows? It could be anything,” Ramirez said. “It could be a big round of the flu.”