At least six San Quentin State Prison inmates were ill with Legionnaires' disease and dozens more under observation yesterday, prompting a weekend halt to visitors, no hot meals, and limited drinking water supplies at California's oldest prison. At least 51 inmates are under observation for respiratory illness at the prison's medical unit, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections says. Cooking at the prison has stopped because Legionella bacteria grow in water and spread through water molecules. Instead, the prison's 3,700 inmates are being served boxed meals, the spokeswoman says.
Water use at the prison has been limited since last week, when an inmate was hospitalized with a confirmed case of the disease. Officials brought in portable toilets, bottled water, and large water tanks to serve thousands of inmates and employees at the 163-year-old prison north of San Francisco. The prison was closed to visitors and volunteers through the weekend, though officials say the public isn't believed to be in danger and none of the prison's more than 1,200 employees have been sickened. (Earlier this month, a member of the San Quentin Six was murdered in prison, 44 years after a deadly escape attempt.)