The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 22, 2013

Northumberland County inmates contract contagious infection

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Some inmates at Northumberland County Prison have contracted contagious staph infections and MRSA, according to the jailhouse’s medical provider.

PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, confirmed cases of staph infections and MRSA at the Sunbury lockup after a recent evaluation of prisoners by medical staff.

“There are people inside the prison receiving treatment for staph infections and MRSA,” Todd Haskins, PrimeCare Medical’s vice president of operations, said Thursday. “We take it seriously and we do everything we can to curb the spread.”

Steve Bridy, Northumberland County commissioner and prison board chairman, would neither confirm nor deny any outbreaks, but said the medical company hired by the county performs spot checks quarterly.

“All of those reports are up to PrimeCare,” Bridy said. “The thing you need to remember is there is MRSA in every jail.”

Haskins agreed.

“Every jail, high school, day care and places like that have MRSA,” Haskins said.

PrimeCare Medical, which services 32 prisons in 29 Pennsylvania counties, prepares inmates in the event of outbreaks, Haskins said.

“We teach prevention and identification to all inmates,” he said. “This is something that is common and happens.”

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a staph germ that is usually resistant to first-line antibiotics, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Commissioner Vinny Clausi said he had not heard about the inmates with MRSA, but did say he had heard there was a situation at the prison on the rise.

“I heard something was going on,” he said. “I don’t know what it is and all questions about this prison should be asked to the chairman.”

MRSA is not listed as a reportable disease in the state Department of Health’s regulations, spokeswoman Holli Senior said Thursday, so the prison health staff would not have been required to report individual cases.

“However, unless the prison usually has cases of MRSA, three cases would meet the definition of an outbreak because it would be an unusual increase in the number of cases of a disease, whether reportable or not,” Senior said.

Those required to report cases must report outbreaks within 24 hours, according to state regulations, she said.

PrimeCare reports what is required, Haskins said.