Prison hooch, or homemade alcohol, is the likely source of a botulism outbreak at an Arizona prison that sent seven inmates to intensive care. The seven inmates, all from Special Management Unit 1 of the Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman in Florence, were hospitalized over the weekend.
Botulism is not spread through person-to-person contact. Although it can develop in contaminated wounds or through IV drug use, it most often develops after eating or drinking food that is tainted with the toxin. Botulism poisoning must be treated with a course of special anti-toxin, the stockpile of which is controlled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Health officials in Pinal County, where the prison is located, suspect that the inmates became ill after drinking hooch made from fermented fruit. After discussions with county health officials, the CDC made a preliminary confirmation of botulism and released the anti-toxin. Samples of the hooch were collected and sent to the CDC lab for testing.
Five of the inmates became seriously ill on Saturday and two more fell ill on Sunday. All seven are in intensive care. Symptoms of botulism poisoning, which can be fatal, include: muscle weakness, difficulty speaking, chewing, swallowing and breathing; and paralysis.
County, state and federal authorities are working on the investigation into the outbreak. This is the second time in four months that such and incident has occurred at the prison. In August, four inmates contracted botulism from prison hooch.