Prison inmate dies after displaying ‘flulike symptoms’

The Arkansas Department of Correction canceled visitation at one prison unit last weekend after the death of an inmate who developed flulike symptoms but a department spokeswoman said Monday visitation at that unit could be restored next week.

There have been no significant illnesses or deaths reported at any of the other units, ADC spokeswoman Shea Wilson said Monday.

Wilson said Nikki Rust, 42, an inmate at the McPherson Unit at Newport, died Saturday at an outside hospital where she had been taken after displaying “flulike symptoms.”

She said the woman did not test positive for the flu and additional medical personnel were sent to the McPherson Unit, which has a population of 900.

The inmate who died was serving a sentence for first-degree battery.

Prison officials isolated the housing unit where the woman had lived, and after two other inmates developed what Wilson said was believed to be the flu, a second housing unit was isolated, adding that the women in those two units were restricted to their living quarters and were not allowed to mingle with the rest of the population.

Those two inmates were being treated at the facility’s medical center and Wilson said if there are no new symptoms within 72 hours, the department will consider ending the isolation and restoring visitation next Saturday and Sunday.

Wilson said there have been a few cases of the flu reported at other facilities around the state but there have been no deaths and no other facility has had visitation cancelled, or had housing units isolated.

“We’re a microcosm of society, and people in prison get sick and we have to deal with health issues,” Wilson said.

She said correction officials are treating anyone who has displayed symptoms of the flu as a precaution.