By ALY TAMBOURA
To the cheers of prison staff and prisoners, the San Quentin Prison health care administrator lifted a six-week-long quarantine of the North-Block housing unit.
Four prisoners fell ill March 6 with chicken pox, which prompted administrators to implement a building-wide quarantine, North Block inmates were locked in their cells for 24 hours a day for three days. After the initial 72 hours, inmates were released for a five-minute shower and permitted to receive their evening meals in the North-dining hall.
Initially the quarantine was scheduled to last 21 days. However, two new cases were discovered in North Block and with the possibility of the virus spreading to other areas of the prison, the quarantine was extended an additional three weeks.
After a number of prisoners complained that they had contracted the disease previously and had at least limited immunity, the medical administrator ordered the testing of prisoner’s blood for the chicken pox antibody. The antibodies are created when a person has had a prior case of the chicken pox or has had a vaccination.
Inmates with positive antibodies were allowed to return to their work assignments and school classes. Prisoners who were not immune or not tested remained on quarantine for another week.
Chicken pox is an acute, contagious viral disease, usually contracted by young children, and characterized by fever and small eruptions on the skin. In adults, the disease can be fatal.