More Legionnaires cases at Pendleton Correctional, IDOC works on plans to protect inmates and staff

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MADISON COUNTY, IN — The Indiana Department of Correction is still working to fix an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease inside Pendleton Correctional Facility.

Since we first reported on the outbreak Dec. 1, there have been two more cases of Legionnaires. This brought the total to seven confirmed or probable cases of the disease. One inmate, Michael Bennet, has died and another inmate is currently in the hospital.

”Everyone is living in fear,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous. She has a relative living in Pendleton.

Mary Conner speaks often with a friend in Pendleton Correctional, she said her friend is worried about the water situation.

”He’s concerned because he doesn’t think anybody cares,” Conner said.

Legionnaires Disease is a very serious form of pneumonia that can spread through water vapor from water contaminated with Legionella bacteria.

The woman with a relative in Pendleton said the inmates in there aren’t being told much about the outbreak, which she said makes them more fearful.

”He says when you ask a question they say they’re going to send someone out to answer that for you and that never happens,” said the woman.

However, Annie Goeller, a spokesperson for the IDOC, said inmates have been provided fact sheets giving info on how legionella spreads, what is being done to fix the issue and more.

DeVonna Green, another person with a friend in Pendleton, said her friend is worried the issue won’t be solved.

”He feels like it will never be fixed, he feels like no one is ever going to do anything,” Green said.

But, Goeller said they’re working on a long-term plan to get rid of the Legionella bacteria from the contaminated water. We were not given a timetable on when a plan will be finalized, but we’re told it will involve disinfecting treatment of the water and ongoing testing to ensure it is safe.

In the meantime, Goeller said filters to protect the incarcerated population and staff members have been added to showers where they have detected Legionella bacteria. She also said drinking and toilet water remains safe.

Even with these safety measures, we’re told some inmates are uncertain of all the water in Pendleton.

”He says he’s really scared when he’s taking a shower because of course you’re breathing the hot water spores from the shower,” said the woman with a relative in Pendleton.

All three people we talked to say they want IDOC to find a solution as quickly as possible before anyone else is affected by this virus.

”If he was to die, I would be devastated, I would literally be devastated,” said the woman with a relative in Pendleton.

Goeller said she could not share the condition of the offender in the hospital with Legionnaires Disease, but he has been in the hospital since Dec. 14.

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