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Stomach virus plaguing Texas prisons

Jan. 22, 2010 at 4:08 PM

LIVINGSTON, Texas, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A highly contagious stomach virus is threatening inmates in at least 16 Texas prisons, a state prisons spokesman says.

State prisons spokesman Jason Clark said a privately operated correctional facility and two halfway houses in Texas also have reported similar sicknesses, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

Authorities suspect norovirus may to blame for the illness that has stricken more than a third of the 16 state prisons' inmates to date.

Norovirus is an organism with ties to 90 percent of the world's non-bacterial gastroenteritis epidemics, the Chronicle said. The organism can be spread via contaminated food or water or through person-to-person contact. Symptoms, which include diarrhea, cramps and vomiting have been found to last up to 72 hours.

None of the stricken inmates had been hospitalized.

The outbreak prompted authorities to cancel weekend visits at four prison in and around the Houston area.

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