[Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the November 15, 1991, issue of "The Colombian."]
A virulent new strain of tuberculosis has killed 12 inmates and one guard in the New York state prison system and poses a "deadly threat" across the nation, the state prison chief said today. Corrections Commissioner Thomas Coughlin said the TB strain was drug resistant.
Four inmates died at the university Hospital of the Health Science Center in Syracuse, and eight died at St. Clare's Hospital in New York City. The guard who died was assigned to watch the inmates being treated in Syracuse, Coughlin said.
"My concern is not only the 28,000 employees of this department, but their families and their communities. I am also concerned for the health of the 60,000 inmates, their visitors, their families and their communities," Coughlin continued.
"This new strain of TB has been identified in other parts of the nation, and is a new and deadly threat to all of us," said Coughlin. "It is an airborne bacteria that can be spread by acts as common as coughing."
The TB strain was confirmed in the prison system in September. James Flateau, a Coughlin spokesman, said the deaths occurred between last December and last week. Statewide, 84 cases of TB were confirmed among inmates in the first 10 months of this year, Coughlin said. The cases remain under investigation to see whether they involve the drug-resistant strain of the disease, he said.
"Inmates are public health sentinels. Their health problems reflect those that are faced by the community at large," Coughlin said.
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