[WATCH] Minister says third inmate hospitalised with flu, outbreak under control

'Prison authorities taking steps to prevent spread of flu outbreak' - Abela • Over the past days, one member of staff and 38 inmates opted to take the influenza vaccine

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Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela and parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne addressed a press briefing this morning, regarding an outbreak of influeza at Corradino Correctional Facility, which claimed the life of one inmate.

Abela explained that a third inmate was taken to the hospital’s Infectious Disease Unit yesterday afternoon after exhibiting flu symptoms. Tests are being carried out to establish whether he is suffering the flu, but the patient is also known to suffer from asthma.

Abela explained that on Sunday 24 January, a Division 3 inmate did not attend roll call. He was found in his cell, struggling to breathe, and was initially thought to have suffered a heart attack.

After being taken to Mater Dei, it was discovered that he had influenza. The man died yesterday. The prisoner, Giuseppe Cassar known as 'ix-Xifu', was 58 years of age. A magisterial inquiry was launched and an autopsy is to be carried out in the coming days.

A second inmate was admitted to hospital a day later, with similar symptoms. He remains in the Intensive Treatment Unit at this time.

Prison officials in the mean time began to take precautions to limit the spread of the outbreak - inmates were assessed by doctors, some were given medication as preventative treatment and the flu vaccine was again offered to inmates.

The vaccine was first offered in November, when 96 inmates and 13 members of staff opted to take it. Over the past days, one member of staff and 38 inmates opted to be vaccinated. Of 580 inmates, only 140 have been vaccinated. 
"The flu is a reality we face every year," Fearne said. "The flu vaccine must be taken annually as the virus continues to mutate."

He noted that deaths related to influenza are often caused by patients' concurrent conditions. The World Health Organization estimates that some 500,000 people die every year from the flu and its complications. 

Fearne noted communicable illnesses have a higher chance of spreading in enclosed spaces such as prisons and that prison officials are taking precautions, like keeping those with flu symptoms in their cells, and giving inmates in the same division the necessary medication even prior to any symptoms.

He further explained that the prevalent virus this year is Influenza A H1N1, and that an average 25% of the population of Europe is affected by the virus every year.

He added that over the past weeks, 3 other patients had been admitted into Mater Dei with serious symptoms arising from the virus, with one fatality, another discharged, another still in the ITU.