Eight prisoners are being kept isolated in their cell after an outbreak of influenza that has hit the Corradino Correctional Facility, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said this morning.
One prisoner died on Thursday of the complications that arose after his infection, while two others have been taken to hospital. One of them is being kept in intensive care while the other is in the infectious diseases ward; both are however in stable condition.
A press conference was called this morning in the wake of the death of an inmate on Thursday. The prisoner was admitted to Mater Dei Hospital with a severe chest infection and died from “respiratory complications brought on by the influenza virus”.
The minister said the government had nothing to hide and the prisoners were given treatment right from the outset.
On Sunday morning this prisoner did not turn up for the roll call. When a doctor visited him in the cell after wardens found him with breathing difficulties, he was immediately sent to hospital. He was placed in intensive care and, as a precautionary measure in line with normal practice, a magisterial inquiry was launched. The prisoner died yesterday morning and an autopsy will be held.
On Monday another prisoner with similar symptoms was admitted to ITU, where he remains in a serious but stable condition. A third prisoner was taken to hospital later.
It was at this point that a meeting was called with the Department of Health and precautions were taken immediately. All prisoners who showed symptoms were isolated and those who had not taken a vaccine was offered to take it again. In November, 96 prisoners and 13 members of staff took the vaccine and, this week, another 39 prisoners and 1 staff member also took it once it was offered.
Mr Abela said the situation will continue to be closely monitored by doctors, but the situation is under control.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health Chris Fearne said the flu found at the prison was the same as the community at large but in a place like a prison there was a higher risk of contraction because the people were in close proximity.
He said that globally, the mortality rate from the flu is up to 10 people per 100,000 who contracted the virus.
Answering questions by the media, Minister Abela said that, to cater for the 580 inmates, there is one full-time doctor, six nurses and one full-time pharmacist. Parliamentary Secretary Fearne said that, throughout this outbreak however, there is also a full team from the Department of Health to assist the medical staff present.
Prof Michael Borg spoke of transmission of the virus through droplets while sneezing and coughing. Dr Barbara from the Pathology Department went into details about prevention such as making sure that hygiene is a priority, as well as covering your mouth with your inner elbow rather than your hand when sneezing to avoid spreading. Dr Barbara also spoke of the procedures taken at CCF this week with saliva swabs being taken and analysed and the diagnoses of Influenza A being made in a number of hours.
When asked how many deaths occur in Malta yearly by The Malta Independent, Medical Expert, Dr Gauci, answered that, more often than not, there are no direct deaths specifically because of influenza, however it does cause an exacerbation of other symptoms in the case of patients suffering from heart disease or asthma.