AUSTIN, TX (AP) - A stomach flu virus has led to visits being banned at some Texas prisons as hundreds of inmates are treated and common areas are being cleaned.
The status of allowing visits on Saturday and Sunday has yet to be determined, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported Tuesday on its Web site.
Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the department, says the outbreak is the largest in Texas prisons in some time. The Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday that more than 1,600 convicts and employees have gotten sick.
Jason Clark, another prison systems representative, said the first signs of the outbreak surfaced about three weeks ago at the Terrell Unit.
Visitation was canceled last weekend for all or parts of the Terrell Unit, the Huntsville Unit, the Stevenson Unit, the Estelle Unit, the Michael Unit, the Pack Unit, the Coffield Unit and the Estes Unit. Garza West Transfer Facility also banned visits last weekend.
More than 11,000 inmates have had visits and transfers to other units canceled, according to Clark.
The virus typically has symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Similar noroviruses drew attention in recent years for plaguing cruise ships and other areas where people are in limited spaces.
"No one has had to be hospitalized yet," said Clark. "We're aggressively disinfecting the common areas to check the spread. It's a fast-moving virus."
According to the prison system, about 1 percent of the convict population late last week had confirmed or suspected norovirus. About 115 prison employees also were sick.
"We're continuing to monitor the situation and are aggressively working to keep the illness from spreading further," said Clark.