Shea Wilson, spokesperson for the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas prison system, told Food Poisoning Bulletin that 357 inmates have shown symptoms of a foodborne illness. “The Health Department has indicated in a preliminary report that it is food poisoning from chicken salad,” she said.
The chicken salad was served to inmates over the weekend. Inmates began to get sick on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Inmate visitation was suspended over the weekend. That number of inmates is 42% of the total prison population. There is no information about the bacteria or virus that may have caused the illness.
Fifteen officials of the Arkansas Department of Health were at the Tucker Unit on August 7. They interviewed staff and patients and took samples.
No prison staff have been reported ill. Five inmates who were eligible for parole on Monday became ill and had to stay at the prison; they were released today. More medical staff has been brought into the prison to help treat the patients.
The Tucker Unit, which is in Jefferson County, was the site of “Old Sparky”, the infamous electric chair that was used when Arkansas had the death penalty. The prison is a farm that produces food and field crops and houses male prisoners.