Second ex-inmate found to have TB

Nick Vlahos

A second former Woodford County Jail inmate has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, it was announced Monday.

County health officials said they do not have concerns about the disease spreading to the general public.

The Illinois Department of Public Health informed the Woodford County Health Department about the diagnosis, the latter group stated in a news release. According to Health Department Administrator Laurie Schierer, both inmates were believed to have been in the county jail simultaneously.

“The second person was in our jail longer than the first person was,” Schierer said. “This extends our period of investigation by four or five weeks.”

Said Lynda McKeown, the county director of nursing: “It is not unusual in a follow-up investigation to identify additional cases.”

Like the initial inmate diagnosed with tuberculosis, this one still is incarcerated but no longer is in Woodford County, Schierer said. In early October, the initial inmate was transferred from the county jail to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the news release stated.

The second inmate was transferred in mid-November, about the time county health officials began their investigation.

The initial inmate was in county custody in August, according to minutes of a County Board executive session in November.

“TB isn’t created in the jail,” Schierer said. “It was brought into the jail. ... Communicable disease that is brought into a confined population is always a risk.”

TB is a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs and is spread by coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing. Left untreated, TB can lead to death.

The disease is uncommon in the United States — according to the county, there were 372 cases statewide in 2010. But it still is prevalent in Africa and Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization.

Patient confidentiality laws prevent Schierer from divulging additional details about this TB case, she said.

“A lot of work goes behind the scenes to protect the health of the public,” Schierer said. “We’re trying our best to be as transparent as possible.”