Agencies investigate outbreak at Ventress Correctional Facility


CONTACT: Burnestine Taylor, M.D.
(334) 206-5100
CONTACT: Cindy Lesinger
(334) 206-5023

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Corrections, is investigating a pneumococcal disease outbreak at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County. ADPH has identified three inmates hospitalized with laboratory confirmed infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria; two of these patients developed meningitis. One of the patients with meningitis has died and an autopsy is being performed.

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) causes bacterial infections ranging from ear infections and sinusitis, to more severe types of illnesses, like pneumonia (lung infection), bloodstream infection and meningitis. Pneumonia is the most common serious form of pneumococcal disease with symptoms including fever and chills, cough, difficulty breathing and chest pain. Meningitis is an infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord with symptoms including fever, stiff neck, headache, and increased sensitivity to light. Severe pneumococcal infections can lead to death and the chance of death is higher among elderly people.

The bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease spread person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory droplets, like saliva or mucus. Many people, especially young children, have these bacteria in their nose and throat without being ill.

There are two pneumococcal vaccines available for the prevention of pneumococcal infections. PPV23, or 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, should be given to all adults 65 years of age and older and individuals 2 years of age or older with a high-risk medical condition. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) should be given to all children 2 through 59 months of age, individuals 6 through 64 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and all adults 65 years of age and older. Pneumococcal vaccines can be administered during outbreaks, especially in closed settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, day-care centers or prisons) where the disease is spreading quickly.

The Alabama Department of Corrections will be providing antibiotics to inmates and staff who have had close contact with, or shared cigarettes and other personal items with inmates who have lab-confirmed pneumococcal disease and to those who have a fever or flu-like illness. In addition, ADPH has ordered PPV23 vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alabama Department of Corrections will administer this vaccine to those who have not been vaccinated previously and have been in close contact with inmates within the past week to help protect others from getting pneumococcal disease during this outbreak.

ADPH has requested assistance from CDC to ensure rapid response and on-site technical assistance during the investigation.

For more information about pneumococcal disease, visit