Prison's outbreak of TB is twice as bad as reported

May 29, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

The first test results for tuberculosis at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown show that about a third of 550 inmates and 10 percent of the prison staff tested positive for the disease, the warden said last night.

The number of inmates who tested positive for the disease is about twice the number announced earlier by the Maryland Division of Correction, before additional test results became available.

Roxbury Warden Jon P. Galley also said an inmate with an active case of tuberculosis who is suspected of exposing other inmates to the disease has a strain of tuberculosis that is resistant to two drugs.

By being resistant to two drugs, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene considers that type of tuberculosis a multiple drug-resistant strain of the disease.

But tests showed it was not the same strain of TB that swept through the New York prison system last year, health officials said yesterday.

Mr. Galley said he expected the overall percentage of inmates who test positive to drop, as the test results of another 1,300 Roxbury inmates become available between today and Sunday.

The first group of about 550 inmates were the prisoners who were in closest contact with the inmate later diagnosed with an active case of the disease, Mr. Galley said.

Mr. Galley said that 9.8 percent of the 437 staff members tested for TB showed positive.

Inmates and staff who tested positive -- which is not an indication of an active case of tuberculosis -- began being X-rayed Wednesday for evidence of the disease, he said.

The Division of Correction is scheduled to hold a press conference today to update the extent of the outbreak of tuberculosis throughout the prison system and detail steps the agency is taking to stem the spread of the disease in the high-risk population.

So far this year, 11 inmates have been diagnosed as having active cases of the disease at six prison facilities across the state.

Meanwhile, concerned about the rapid rise of tuberculosis among inmates, the Division of Correction will upgrade special medical isolation rooms for prisoners afflicted with the disease at each of the state's five regional prison infirmaries, a correction spokesman said yesterday.

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