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Incarcerated man dies after Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Pendleton Correctional Facility

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A man incarcerated at Pendleton Correctional Facility in Madison County died Friday morning.  He was confirmed to have Legionnaires’ disease and had been hospitalized, according to information shared by the Indiana Department of Correction.

IDOC declared a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak Wednesday. Five men incarcerated at the prison had been hospitalized for treatment. Three men tested positive and two others received a negative test result, but those two men are not being listed as negative for Legionnaires’ disease because they have similar symptoms and were possibly exposed to the bacteria.

The sickened men all live in two units of the maximum-security facility, which is located about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

“The Indiana Department of Correction, in partnership with the Indiana Department of Health and assisted by the Centers for Disease Control, are working diligently to find the source of the contamination within Pendleton Correctional Facility,” IDOC spokeswoman Annie Goeller said in a news release.

MORE: On Season 2 of Sick, listen to stories of what goes wrong in corrections facilities — places meant to keep people healthy, but built to punish them.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria, which spread through water droplets or mist that are inhaled. In general, people do not spread the bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prison officials said testing is ongoing to determine the source of the bacteria and could take several days. As a precaution, officials said Wednesday the facility’s hot water has been turned off, but toilets and drinking water are not affected.

“Multiple steps have been taken, as advised by health officials, to protect staff and the incarcerated population from further exposure,” Goeller said in the news release.

Lauren Bavis is an investigative reporter for Side Effects Public Media and WFYI in Indianapolis. She is also the co-host of the podcast Sick. She can be reached at lbavis@wfyi.org.

Lauren a reporter and editor based at WFYI in Indianapolis. She maintains Side Effects' website, social media accounts (which you can follow on Facebook and Twitter) and newsletter (which you should sign up to get weekly). Lauren graduated from Towson University and moved to Indiana in 2012, where she began her career as a newspaper reporter. She reported on health and social services for the Bloomington Herald-Times. Her work has been recognized by the Indiana chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and Associated Press Media Editors, as well as the Hoosier State Press Association.