Out of Control Norovirus at The Low Institution, Butner, North Carolina

Out of Control Norovirus at The Low Institution, Butner, North Carolina

By C. Clagett

It has been about five weeks since the original Norovirus started in Wake Unit and then spread entirely through the Low Custody Institution, as well as the FCI 1.

This infectious virus was very poorly handled by the institution. The evidence of contamination was there from the outset, but there was no effort at quarantine, thus all the units became infected, including mine.

We in Vance B, in fact, became the worst hit.

The institution remained open for some weeks, with UNICOR as a contagion focal point, and the intermingling of other parts of the yard, dining hall, education, etc. allowed a firmly rooted virus to get a serious hold on the institution. The virus was brought under control after (after the horses got out of the barn) the unused SHU at the Low was finally re-opened to segregate and quarantine those who were showing symptoms.

This was oh so late, and the warden said that it was opened so late because they did not perceive this to be such a serious epidemic, and they thought it would “burn itself out;” it clearly did not do so.

For a time at the start, there were inter-complex transfers to the Federal Medical Center (FMC), and it was there the FCI 1 became infected, along with the FMC.

There are fragile health patients there, as well as at the Low, and this virus has a stunning rate of transfer. Alcohol does not eradicate it, or so we are told, and the stuff that does is hard to use because it is sprayed; it takes some time to work, so applying it after using the phone is somewhat useless.

The continual washing of hands is the best preventative measure. But that limited the healthy to one bathroom, as the sick were relegated to the other. Unfortunately, the virus has a gestation period, so one did not know if one had caught it for a day or two, and had used the “well” bathroom in that period of time.

By the time everyone realized how serious the problem was, the problem was intensified by those who refused to admit they were sick because they didn’t want to be quarantined.  Thus the virus was passed along to others.

Finally, they opened the SHU this last weekend, using it to quarantine the ill.  It probably should have occurred much sooner, but at least it finally happened. The quarantine seems to be stopping the spread of the virus, as there are so many snitches here that are keeping notes on the persons using the “sick” bathroom.

I was one of the sick that owned up; I felt a responsibility to preclude others from suffering through the twelve hours of vomiting associated with the virus.  This was not a pleasant experience.  

In the future, it might be better to segregate those sick much, much, much quicker.