The worst tuberculosis outbreak in the severely overcrowded Alabama prisons in the past five years has been recorded recently, an official at the Alabama Department of Public Health revealed Thursday in several reports.
Nine active cases of tuberculosis, a contagious respiratory disease, were diagnosed this year in state prisons, according to Pam Barrett, who is the director of tuberculosis control at the said health department.
She clarified that though the digits aren’t that big, the annual average of Alabama prisons since 2009 has fewer than five cases of tuberculosis. Last year was even zero. Reason why she already considered this year “a very serious outbreak.”
Eight out of nine cases were recorded at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama, which was supposedly for 984 men only but now houses 1,292 prisoners till end of May. Once diagnosed positive, inmates are then placed on treatment plan for six months.
Barrett said the corrections department is a hotbed of the said communicable disease simply because of its living arrangements. She however said St. Clair refuses to accept new inmates or to transfer prisoners to other lockups so as to prevent the spread of tuberculosis.
No new cases have been recorded in about a few weeks, which officials are very optimistic of.
"We think we're at the end of it," she told Associated Press.
Research said tuberculosis gets spread through the air we breathe by means of the tiny droplets emitted in a cough or sneeze. People with it can show symptoms of less-serious diseases such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
"It's unfortunate doctors are not thinking about TB, but we only had 108 cases in the state last year," said Barrett. "Most doctors have never seen TB. It's easy to miss."
Tuberculosis also appears to be an ordinary problem that is more usual in prisons than in the general populace. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is the second deadliest communicable disease worldwide, next to HIV/AIDS. It has brought deaths to 1.3 million in 2012.
The Alabama prisons are also facing lawsuits from Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Center and Southern Poverty Law Center, with the latter claiming the state’s failure in providing inmates with care for both mental and medical health problems. The Alabama department, however, denied the allegations.
In June, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama was calling for the removal of the warden at St. Clair because of the increasing rates of serious violence inside the prison wherein an inmate named Jodey Waldrop became the third inmate to be murdered at the facility in 2013.