San Quentin in “Crisis Mode” After Inmate Tests Positive for Legionnaires' Disease

San Quentin is on edge after an inmate tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

[jump] According to the Chronicle, the inmate underwent tests at a local hospital yesterday, and after he tested positive, the prison went into “crisis mode.” All water was shut off yesterday afternoon because the disease is transmitted through mist or vapor.

The prison is closed to visitors today.

The Chronicle reports that about 20 other inmates were also taken to the hospital after exhibiting symptoms of Legionnaires', including high fever and coughing. Marin County public health officials are investigating the source of the bacteria and are trucking in bottled water, water tanks for showers, and portable bathrooms.

The Los Angeles Times notes that San Quentin currently has more than 3,700 inmates in a facility designed to hold about 3,000. Prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson told the Times that more than 1,800 people work at the prison, and as many as 100 Bay Area volunteers are inside the facility daily.

The good news is that Legionnaires' isn’t infectious and can’t be spread from person to person. It’s transmitted through steam, mist, and water vapor, or through contaminated soil.

The most notorious outbreak of Legionnaires’ was in Philadelphia in 1976, when approximately 200 people attending a hotel convention contracted the disease, and 34 died. (The source was later traced to the hotel's air conditioning system.) This year, two outbreaks in the Bronx left 12 people dead, although New York City health officials recently declared the outbreak over.

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