Floyd County Jail trying to manage spread of hepatitis A among inmates

FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. (WDRB) -- The Floyd County Jail is working to stop the spread of hepatitis A behind bars.

Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop said about two months ago, he got the heads up from Louisville Metro Corrections and Clark County Jail that hepatitis A was spreading through those jails.

“So we knew eventually we were going to get some cases,” Loop said.

Loop said it is typical to have some type of hepatitis in a jail setting, because it’s normal and easy for contagious viruses to spread quickly in that environment. Close quarters, poor hygiene, inmates addicted to drugs and homelessness are all high-risk factors for getting hepatitis A.

“With the drug needles that are flowing through the community, we also knew that was going to be an issue sooner or later,” Loop said.

Loop said there are four confirmed cases among inmates, one of which needed to be hospitalized.

“A lot of times, the person that has it doesn’t know until they get in here and they start getting off of their drugs," he said. "And then we’re the first ones to tell them.”

To stop the spread, all jail employees are being vaccinated.

“It’s important we do this, because we don’t have any choice but to work in this environment,” Loop said. “So we want to protect our employees and their families as well.”

And now the inmates will be vaccinated as well.

“It got so rapid in the community that the Department of Health decided they would vaccinate all of the inmates,” Loop said.

The department will be vaccinating inmates for the next six months. Loop expects that will be about 2,000 or 3,000 inmates.

The jail usually spends more than $500,000 on medical treatments for inmates every year, so an outbreak like this would bust the budget. However, Loop said the state is helping cover the costs of the vaccinations for all inmates.

Loop said the jail will have to cover the extra expenses if any inmates are hospitalized for hepatitis A. The jail would have to pay for the medical treatment and for staffing a deputy to guard the inmate at the hospital. Loop said it’s not clear how much extra this will add to the budget yet.

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