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Nebraska Dept. of Correctional Services taking steps to combat flu

Posted at 6:27 PM, Dec 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-22 19:27:53-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Forty-five inmates have become sick in recent weeks throughout five correctional facilities in Nebraska.

Scott R. Frakes, director of the Nebraska Dept. of Correctional Services, said they're taking every step possible to reduce the number of illnesses.

The illnesses were reported at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln, the Community Corrections Center-Omaha, Tecumseh State Correctional Institution and the Diagnostic and Evaluation center.

“Visits will be canceled at the penitentiary on Tuesday, December 24,” said Dir. Frakes. “At this point, that is the institution with the highest number of cases, both confirmed and suspected.”

Depending on whether the virus continues to spread, it could be necessary to cancel additional visits and change movement within facilities.

Dir. Frakes said employees of the facilities will be touching base often to stay on top of the number of emerging cases and determining what actions to take.

Inmates have been encouraged to get their flu shots and the agency is increasing its stock of masks.

“New intakes will be screened for symptoms and members of the medical staff will be providing vaccinations on a regular basis to those who request them,” added Dir. Frakes. He said administration of antiviral medications may help to limit the severity and length of illness in those who are confirmed to have the flu in its early stages," said Dir. Frakes. “The complicating thing about the flu is that people don’t often realize they are sick, until they have already passed the virus to those around them. That makes it difficult to stay one step ahead of the illness.”

Additionally, wardens have been advised to disinfect areas used by inmates, staff and visitors more frequently to encourage good sanitation by everyone.

“This is going to be a constantly evolving situation. Most of our facilities are not currently affected, but we suspect all of them will be at some point,” said Dir. Frakes. “We are taking every step we possibly can to reduce the number of illnesses. But, with the flu characterized as ‘widespread’ in Nebraska, we also recognize this could be a significant flu season.”