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  1. #1
    Senior Member Dixie's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Texas - Occupied State - The Front Line

    Fatal Del Rio jail illness baffles authorities

    Fatal Del Rio jail illness baffles authorities

    Web Posted: 08/09/2007 10:52 PM CDT

    Don Finley
    Express-News Medical Writer

    A mysterious illness at a Del Rio detention center that has killed two inmates and hospitalized two others within the past month has baffled health authorities, who have asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help.

    All four men — three of them foreign nationals from Honduras and Mexico held on immigration charges, the fourth a Val Verde county prisoner who was one of the dead — were described as in their 20s and 30s, and apparently healthy when they arrived at the Val Verde Correctional Facility and County Jail.

    The privately operated 850-bed medium-security facility is under contract to house federal detainees for the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as local prisoners.

    One of the ill inmates was brought to an unidentified San Antonio hospital; the other remains hospitalized in Del Rio. Their conditions have not been released.

    "It's still a big mystery to us," said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, regional medical director of the Texas Department of State Health Services, who is heading the investigation. "I can't tell you that we've figured it out. But we're in the process of requesting assistance from CDC and others to come and help us."

    The first inmate became ill in mid- to late July, she said. In each case, symptoms began with erratic behavioral changes, followed by incontinence and dehydration. A host of tests for medical conditions and toxic exposures failed to identify a culprit. And no autopsy has yet been performed on either of the men who died.

    "As far as we know, these individuals did not have any contact with one another," said Guerra-Cantu, adding that health officials have not yet recommended any change in operations at the jail except to closely monitor prisoners for similar symptoms.

    She said local officials contacted them late last week after the sheriff and local doctors became concerned.

    "We have had two sets of teams from the Texas Department of State Health Services visit the facility to interview the medical staff, review the medical records, look at all the laboratory results, as well as request consults from various experts in different fields of health care, to get their ideas about what's going on."

    The facility is operated under contract by the Geo Group Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla., company that also runs correctional facilities in San Antonio, Pearsall and Karnes City, and has a regional administrative office in New Braunfels. The company is cooperating with the investigation, Guerra-Cantu said.

    "It would be irresponsible for ICE to speculate on this particular matter, but it is something we definitely will be looking into immediately," said Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for the federal agency that detained the three foreign nationals, adding she had no information about them late Thursday.

    Sheriff D'Wayne Jernigan's office referred all questions to state health officials.

    According to the Geo Group's Web site, the facility is undergoing an expansion that will increase its capacity to more than 1,400 beds.

    In March, Val Verde County and the Geo Group settled a lawsuit with the family of LeTisha Tapia, a 23-year-old federal inmate found hanged in her cell after reporting she'd been sexually assaulted in 2004. Last week, the Associated Press reported that under the terms of that settlement, the county had hired an independent monitor for the prison. ... a5a72.html
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Dixie's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Texas - Occupied State - The Front Line
    Feds to help in probe of jail illness

    Web Posted: 08/10/2007 10:51 PM CDT

    John MacCormack

    DEL RIO — A new medical team, including federal disease experts, is expected to arrive here next week to try to find the cause of the mysterious illness that has killed two inmates and hospitalized two others from Val Verde County's jail.

    "We would like someone with a new set of eyes to come and take a look. We're asking for a multi-faceted team to come, including the Centers for Disease Control," said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, regional medical director of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

    Officials are frustrated at not knowing what's behind the ailments and that an opportunity to learn more was missed when an autopsy was not conducted.

    "I'm very concerned that we have been unable to figure out the causes of their deaths," said Val Verde County Sheriff D'Wayne Jernigan, who sounded the alarm several weeks ago, but had difficulty finding anyone to listen. "There's a very high level of frustration. I'm responsible for the welfare of every inmate, every employee and the community."

    Presently, there are about 850 inmates and 300 employees at the Val Verde Correctional Facility, a medium-security facility overseen by Jernigan but privately operated by GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla.

    Most of the inmates are placed there for immigration violations by the U.S. Marshals Service.

    All four of those suspected to be suffering from a common ailment were held at the facility at one point or another.

    Two died in area hospitals after coming down with symptoms that included erratic behavioral changes, incontinence and dehydration. The third is in critical condition at a Del Rio hospital and the fourth is in stable condition in a San Antonio hospital that officials wouldn't identify.

    The state already has sent two teams of investigators to review the jail. A variety of tests for medical conditions and toxic exposures have failed to identify a cause.

    A chance to learn more about the disease apparently was missed in late July when a Honduran died in a Del Rio hospital but wasn't given an autopsy despite efforts to arrange one.

    Val Verde County Justice of the Peace Joey Gonzalez said that after the death, he was asked by the U.S. Marshals Office to call Bexar County and inquire about getting an autopsy done there.

    "I called the medical examiner's office, like we always do, and spoke to an investigator. She told me it was a natural death, that he died in the hospital and there was no foul play, and we (Bexar County) don't accept those," Gonzalez recounted.

    "She said they need to get the cause of death from the attending physician, that he would have signed the death certificate. So I never signed an order," he said.

    A day or two later, the body of the Honduran was embalmed by the funeral home, making an autopsy moot and eliminating most opportunities to investigate the mysterious ailment.

    "When they embalmed the body, they got rid of all my evidence," said Sgt. James Riddle, who is investigating the deaths for the Sheriff's Office.

    "Knowing what we know now, we would've tried to get a court order to get an autopsy," said Fernando Karl, assistant chief of the U.S. Marshals Office in San Antonio.

    Dr. Randall Frost, the chief medical examiner in Bexar County, said normal procedures were followed in the case of the Honduran, and that contrary to rumors floating around Del Rio, the body never was brought to San Antonio.

    "We're not an autopsy service, we're an investigative agency," he said, adding that typically, someone who dies after a period of extended hospital care isn't given an autopsy.

    Frost said the urgency and extenuating circumstances about the Honduran's mysterious death apparently were not made clear in the call to his office.

    "If ever there was a case made for a statewide medical examiner, this is it. You have a non-medical individual, a justice of the peace, calling up and talking to our investigator," he said. "What should have happened is what happened (Thursday). A doctor talking to a doctor."

    Guerra-Cantu said the apparent slip-up would not happen again.

    "I think it was a missed opportunity to get additional information, but I don't know that it would have resolved anything," she said. "I know that we're making arrangements in the unfortunate event that someone else dies, we'll have an autopsy done. The CDC has offered to do that for us if we need it."

    Meanwhile, Val Verde County officials are keeping a close eye on the other inmates and employees. Thus far, there's no sense of panic, Riddle said.

    "Most of my guys have worked as jailers with TB and AIDS. They know if there was a severe contagion, other people would be dying," he said.

    "The general feeling right now among the employees is they are not worried. No employees are sick and no employee families are sick." ... 5cb96.html
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  3. #3
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)


    I hope it's not from Nerve agent or blister agent

    call me a worry wart, but there are people trying to hurt this country and rather than bring it in them selves would pay a illegal to carry it for cheep
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  4. #4
    Senior Member AngryTX's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Unless they're given a complete and through medical exam, there no telling what type of germs and diseases are being transmitted.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2006
    The scary thing is - it sounds like maybe just one person was the carrier here. If Del Rio hadn't caught the carrier - just think he might have been loosed into the American population.

    Makes you wonder how many of them are handling our food products, our elderly, sick, with our children in school - etc.

    I hope they find this and I hope they don't try to use this to destroy Del Rio's work with illegal immigration. It seems to be working and I know some would really like to shut it down.
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