Inmates in quarantine after flu outbreak at Ector County Jail

ODESSA -- The Ector County Detention Center has a bad case of the flu. An outbreak of the disease forced as many as 40 inmates to sit in quarantine.

With a lot of people living in close proximity, the staff is taking it seriously.

“It’s very contagious” Sheriff Mike Griffis said. “And for some people it can be deadly.”

“It’ll spread like wildfire in a place like this,” nurse Lori Hodgkins said. “We have people with major medical issues. If they get it, it’s going to be harder for them to get over it.”

In response to the outbreak, many inmates have been isolated from the rest of the population.

“Probably 30 to 40 that are quarantined,” Griffis said. “Ten that are confirmed with the flu, and then the others are showing signs of the flu.”

Staff at the jail said that whenever they’re interacting with sick patients, they make sure both parties are wearing a medical mask and latex gloves.

The medical team keeps an eye on inmate’s temperatures and gives them medicine, but they said one of the biggest things is educating their patients.

“[Tell them to] Wash their hands, don’t touch their face,” Hodgkins said. “Drink lots of fluids. Don’t share cups. They’re really bad about sharing cups.”

This recent outbreak has the sheriff considering a program to get flu shots for inmates.

“A few nights ago we made five trips to the hospital with people that had flu-like symptoms,” Griffis said. “It may be more cost effective to give them a five dollar shot instead of costing us $300 to run them to the hospital.”

The quarantines appear to be working, and Friday morning several inmates were released back into the general population because their condition had improved.