Prison officials in California turned off the water service at their facility after one of the inmates was hospitalized and others were sickened because of the waterborne illness known as Legionnaires' disease.

The staff of San Quentin State Prison immediately shut off the water supply on Friday after water testing confirmed that the life-threatening disease is indeed in the drinking water.

A tanker carrying 3,800 gallons of water was brought in to the correctional facility for its staff and inmates. An additional 2,800 liter bottles were also delivered to the prison, as well 380 gallons of water held in an assortment of makeshift containers.

Officials also requested for additional officers to provide security for the 3,700 prison inmates as they were escorted from their detainment cells to around 100 portable toilets. The inmates were allowed to use the restrooms in the prison on Friday.

Safe drinking water at the facility continues to be delivered to the prison as health experts tried to identify the potential source of the contamination.

According to reports, two other prison inmates also showed symptoms of Legionnaires' disease and were immediately taken to the hospital. Test results on the remaining inmates will be made available as soon as this weekend.

Dr. Bob Benjamin, of the Marin County public health office, said that the measures for emergency response at the San Quentin prison appear to have served their purpose.

Despite assuring that the public was not put in danger because of the contamination, prison officials still decided to close off the correctional facility to volunteers and visitors through the weekend. They also reported that none of the facility's staff members fell sick from the Legionnaires' disease.

"The staff at San Quentin showed exemplary preparedness to this incident and we continue to be flexible in our responses as we control this situation," Lt. Samuel Robinson, spokesman for the correctional facility, said.

Health officials said that they will continue to conduct tests on inmates and staff members of San Quentin State Prison if they start to develop symptoms of Legionnaires' disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Legionnaires' disease as serious illness caused by a type of bacteria known as Legionella.

The Legionella bacteria can often be found growing in warm water, such as those in hot tubs, cooling towers, decorative fountains, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems.

Legionnaires' disease is typically contracted by breathing in vapor or mist contaminated with Legionella. The bacteria, however, are not transferred from one individual to another.

Photo: Matt McDaniel | Flickr 

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