Possible mumps outbreak shuts part of two Texas prisons

February 19, 2018 GMT

Another possible mumps outbreak shut down visitation over the weekend for some parts of two Texas prisons.

A stomach bug impacted visiting at another three facilities, though Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said it is a “relatively small number” of prisoners affected.

The Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony and Segovia Unit in Edinburg are both dealing with the possibility of mumps, while McConnell, Ellis, and Terrell Units are all grappling with gastrointestinal illnesses, Clark said.

A number of mumps cases surfaced in early 2017 in Texas, and the disease made its way into the prison system around April, hitting Willacy County State Jail north of Brownsville and the nearby Lopez State Jail in Edinburg, according to TDCJ.

At one point last year, roughly 10 inmates had confirmed cases, Clark said. But then the illness receded only to re-emerge in November at Willacy. Dozens of inmates went on medical lockdown there and also at Stringfellow Unit in Brazoria County after one symptomatic prisoner was transferred between the two units.

“Mumps has been pretty prevalent down in South Texas,” Clark said at the time. “And what you see in the community often makes its way into the prison system.”

Confirmed cases are put in isolation cells, while any inmates who may have been exposed are put on medical restriction.

TDCJ offers vaccines for incoming inmates born after 1957, but the recent outbreaks come amid a nationwide uptick.

“This is a vaccine preventable disease,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, professor and interim chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, “and the thought is ... that immunity is waning and a lot of the people who’ve been affected in these outbreaks have been persons who have had a number of years since they’ve had a mumps vaccine.”