INDIANTOWN — Martin Correctional Institution will be closed to new inmates and transfers for about a week after at least two inmates recently contracted bacterial meningitis, according to a Martin County Health Department release and a state Department of Corrections official.
The first inmate was confirmed with meningitis Sunday, and is currently listed as stable at Martin Memorial Medical Center. The second case was confirmed Monday, and that inmate is in stable condition at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute, said Renay Rouse, the county health department's spokeswoman.
A third inmate might have also contracted the infection, and is currently at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, Rouse said.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, and usually is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, according to the health department.
The inmates lived in a 250-person dormitory at the 1,509-capacity all-male facility, said Gretl Plessinger, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman. The state Department of Corrections decided Monday to close the facility to new inmates and inmate releases, transfers and visitation — a lockdown that will likely last until Jan. 31, Plessinger said.
Any inmates slated to move into the institution likely will continue staying at one of five reception centers across the state for the time being, Plessinger said.
"We're not going to let any movement in or out of the institution," Plessinger said.
The Department of Corrections worked with the county health department to provide the antibiotic prophylaxis to all facility staff and inmates. Anyone opting out of treatment will be quarantined for 10 days, the release said.
The general public is not likely to be at high risk, Rouse said.
"For the general community outside of the prison, it's low risk at this time," Rouse said.
How the inmates contracted the disease was not immediately known, but the county health department sent its epidemiologist Dr. Karen Thomas to interview the first patient Monday afternoon. Thomas also plans to visit the correctional facility, and potentially the other inmate, Rouse said.
About 10 percent of infected people die from the disease, and in non-fatal cases, long-term disabilities, such as brain damage, loss of limb or deafness can result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meningitis is generally spread by exchanging respiratory or throat secretions through kissing, coughing and sneezing, but the disease is not as contagious as the cold or the flu. High fever, headaches, and stiff neck are common symptoms, and can develop over hours or over a day or two, according to the CDC.
Vaccines are available as preventative measures against the disease, and immediate medical care with antibiotics can reduce the risk of death, the release said.
© 2011 TCPalm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.