By Jackie Stone

The Cove Herald

GATESVILLE - Cases of a gastrointestinal illness that cancelled visitations at a Gatesville prison unit last weekend have increased at that unit.

Any cancellations for this weekend will be announced later in the week and posted on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Web site, said TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark.

The Crain Unit female prison facility in Gatesville had reported 79 cases by Tuesday, up from 20 cases last week, Clark said.

Cases at two other Gatesville prison facilities affected by the virus reported more modest increases in cases. Hilltop Unit increased from 11 cases to 13. Mountainview Unit increased from eight cases to 14.

Three other prison units in Gatesville had no reported cases as of Wednesday.

In confined prison facilites, illness can spread quickly. The gastrointestinal virus is believed to be the same norovirus that has affected 26 prison facilities and two half-way houses across the state since early January. The virus is gastrointestinal with severe flu-like symptoms that last about 48 to 72 hours, Clark said.

Clark said sanitation procedures have been stepped up in all of the facilities with cases of illness that appear to be the norovirus.

Clark recommended that visitors to prison facilities that have not canceled visitations use common sense with hygiene and wash their hands frequently. He also suggested calling the prison ahead of time to make sure visitations were still on before making a long drive.

As of July 2009, the Crain Unit had a maximum capacity of 1,498 offenders in the unit and employed a total of 756 people, according to the TDCJ Web site.

The Mountainview Unit had a 645 capacity and employed 338. The Hilltop Unit was listed as the smallest of the three affected facilities with a unit capacity of 341 prisoners and an employee population of 264.

Contact Jackie Stone at or (254) 501-7474. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcoveeditor.

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