Pox puts prison on alert

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Roebourne Regional Prison is in partial lock down after an outbreak of chickenpox.
Camera IconRoebourne Regional Prison is in partial lock down after an outbreak of chickenpox. Credit: Chris Lees

Roebourne Regional Prison is in partial lockdown this month after an outbreak of chickenpox among prisoners.

Nine cases of chickenpox have been diagnosed at the prison in recent weeks, prompting the WA Country Health Service to call for restrictions on movements into and out of the prison.

At present, all non-urgent visits and prison transfers have been cancelled until three weeks have passed since the last diagnosis.

A Department of Corrective Services spokesman said communicable diseases such as chickenpox were not uncommon in prisons and prison staff had followed health professionals’ advice to contain it.

“Following nine diagnosed cases of chickenpox at Roebourne Regional Prison between late December and early January 2017, a decision was made by WA Country Health Services that to prevent further spread, a vaccination program for inmates and staff be undertaken, in addition to other disease control measures,” he said.

“All RRP prisoners and staff were offered chickenpox vaccinations and all prison transfers and non-urgent visits have been temporarily stopped until the outbreak of new cases has ended ... and the infectious period of up to 21 days after the last case is completed.

“DCS suggests that if anyone has concerns about chickenpox to speak to their GP or local public health team.”

Legal Aid regional director Lex Payne said while the restrictions had prevented Pilbara Legal Aid lawyers from visiting clients, the prison had limited disruptions by providing telephone and videolink interviews.

“In general it has had limited impact on Legal Aid WA’s ability to attend to servicing the legal needs of our clients at RRP,” he said. “It really only restricts lawyers who, because of the nature of the instructions or advice to be given, particularly where documents require explaining or due to circumstances personal to particular clients... (there is) client preference for face-to-face meeting rather than telephone or video links.”

The lockdown is expected to be lifted in early February.

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