TUCKER, Ark. (KTHV) - State health officials at the Tucker Prison are trying to figure out what caused hundreds of inmates at the Jefferson County facility to get sick over the last few days.
Right now, there are no firm leads; just that prison officials believe it was either something these inmates ate or some kind of stomach bug going around.
With workers coming and going, and inmates out in the exercise yard, it appeared to be business as usual Tuesday evening at the Arkansas Department of Correction's Tucker Unit. But not all is well here.
"By Sunday afternoon we had approximately 260 inmates and that has grown today [Tuesday] to 357," prison spokesperson Shea Wilson said.
That's 357 inmates recently getting sick, or about 42 percent of the overall current prison population here.
"They've been vomiting, having diarrhea anything you might associate with food poisoning or some type of stomach flu," Wilson said.
On Tuesday, Wilson said a 15-member crew from the Arkansas Department of Health came to the Tucker Unit to start investigating the case. Wilson says they did everything from interviewing sick inmates to taking food samples from the past five days for testing in Little Rock.
A spokesman for the health department tells Today's THV it could be a week before the prison gets any results back. In the mean time, Wilson says some inmates are getting better while others are still fighting this mystery bug.
"We did temporarily halt the transfer of outgoing inmates to outgoing units just in case this is something that is contagious," Wilson said.
Wilson says they have also brought in some additional medical staff to care for the inmates this week. At this time, she says they are all back in their regular barracks. But when this broke out on Sunday, the prison set up a triage in the gym because so many inmates became sick all at once.
Wilson says that she's not aware of any prison staff becoming sick from this mystery illness. She also said there were five inmates eligible for parole on Monday but because they got sick they had to remain at the prison.