The Delaware Department of Correction announced Jan. 31 it is taking additional precautions to protect inmates, staff and visitors during flu season.
These measures come in response to an increase in flu-like activity in prison facilities and throughout the community and is part of ongoing efforts to minimize the spread of the flu virus.
The new precautions, effective immediately, include a new restriction on visits by persons 16 and younger. Since children are more likely to get the flu and other respiratory illnesses and spread those illnesses, restricting visitation by children and youth is a common precaution employed among healthcare facilities in the state and nationwide to limit potential exposure to the influenza virus and reduce the spread of flu. This restriction is temporary and will be revisited on an ongoing basis.
Enhanced screening measures for correctional security, medical and administrative staff who work in Level IV — work release and violation of probation — and Level V — prison — facilities as they report for duty each day have been put into place to ensure that individuals who exhibit flu-like symptoms do not enter those facilities.
Individuals who have questions about visitation at a specific location are encouraged to contact that DOC facility directly.
Under the leadership and direction of the Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, DOC sponsors a comprehensive flu vaccination effort across all facilities and offices. This year, hundreds of staff and more than 1,750 inmates received the flu shot during vaccination clinics across DOC facilities. Inmates who present symptoms of the flu are carefully monitored by medical staff and may be given antiviral medication and isolated in facility infirmaries. Prevention and control measures have helped the DOC avoid widespread flu outbreaks in all correctional facilities during the entire 2017-18 and 2018-19 flu seasons.
“The Department of Correction is taking common-sense measures, consistent with best healthcare practices and recommendations by medical professionals, to protect our people and facilities during this critical phase of the flu season,” said Department of Correction Medical Director Awele Maduka-Ezeh. “Our priority is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our inmates, staff and visitors and we appreciate the cooperation of our staff, offenders and their families.”
The number of inmates who have presented flu-like symptoms has become elevated in recent weeks. As of Jan. 30, 32 inmates across all Level IV and Level V facilities statewide are being observed by medical staff or are receiving treatment for the flu or flu-like symptoms.
DOC advises members of the public who are planning a visit to a DOC facility to follow these guidelines:
— Refrain from visiting when sick: Visitors play an important role in the support system for inmates, but the health and well-being of inmates, staff and visitors is a priority. If exhibiting symptoms of a cold, sore throat, or any contagious disease — fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose or a sore throat — refrain from visiting a correctional facility.
— Get the flu vaccine: While it won’t completely prevent the flu, the flu vaccine has been shown to lessen its severity and can protect children and the elderly from serious complications that can result from the flu.
— Wash hands frequently: Visitors should clean their hands when entering and leaving DOC facilities. Washing hands with soap and water often prevents the spread of germs, and can help prevent the flu.
For more on the flu and how to prevent it, visit cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.