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SCIENCE FILE | Science in Brief

L.A. Outbreak of Meningitis in '93 Linked to Overcrowded County Jails

September 19, 1996|From Times staff and wire reports

An outbreak of dangerous meningitis in Los Angeles three years ago was spread by newly released prisoners who caught the bacteria in overcrowded jails, federal investigators conclude in the New England Journal of Medicine. From January through March 1993, 54 people came down with meningococcal disease in Los Angeles County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 42 of them--including three who died--to see how their habits differed from those of people who escaped the illness. They found a strong link between getting sick and contact with men who had recently left the county jail system. Exposure to former prisoners increased the risk 19-fold. The researchers found that 19% of men getting out of jail were symptom-free carriers of the bacteria, compared with only 1% of the general public.

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