An outbreak of the flu has prompted Nebraska prison officials to cancel Christmas Eve visits to the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

The Department of Correctional Services on Sunday said that 45 cases of the flu have been confirmed and a higher number are suspected at five corrections facilities. The worst affected is the State Penitentiary, said Corrections Director Scott Frakes.

“Obviously, the cancellation of visits (will) be an inconvenience,” Frakes said. “But, we recognize the need to protect members of the public as well.”

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The department is taking several steps, including:

  • Providing face masks for use by staff and inmates.
  • Encouraging inmates to get flu shots.
  • Providing antiviral medications to those where the flu is in the early stages.
  • Screening new inmates for symptoms.
  • Increasing the disinfection of common areas and encouraging good hygiene.

The flu in Nebraska has gotten off to an early start, and Nebraska is among the states nationally where the flu is considered widespread.

The Douglas County Jail is seeing what could be its worst flu outbreak in years. More than 20 inmates there have become ill. Some nursing homes also are dealing with a surge in cases.

“This is going to be a constantly evolving situation,” Frakes said of state corrections. “Most of our facilities are not currently affected, but we suspect all of them will be at some point. We are taking every step we possibly can.”

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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