LOS ANGELES - County Supervisors and Sheriffs officials must ensure inmates in the seven jail facilities in Los Angeles have access to a bed, timely medical attention, clean clothes and showers in order to control the ongoing outbreak of a virulent form of staph infection. They must also employ an epidemiologist to monitor the bacteria immediately, say ACLU jails monitors.

The ACLU, which monitors conditions in the jails, conducted an audit of clothing exchange and showers in several cell blocks in Men's Central Jail throughout the fall and winter. The ACLU has also assisted hundreds of inmates every month in gaining access to medical care for treatment, including cases of staph infections.

"Unsanitary living conditions including trash build up, lack of linens, and inmates sleeping on the floor still exist in the county jails," said Jody Kent, Jails Project Coordinator for the ACLU of Southern California. "Until these conditions improve everyone - jail staff, inmates and the community - will be at risk of contracting staph."

The L.A. County jails are currently on a special schedule to reduce the spread of staph. Instead of showers every other day as mandated by the state, inmates are required to have access to a shower every day. Over the last several months the Sheriff's Department has made improvements in meeting this requirement.

"At first the jails were diagnosing staph as spider bites," Kent said. "Now they recognize it's a serious infection, but without reducing the inmate population and addressing the extreme overcrowding in the jails, especially at Men's Central Jail, it's nearly impossible to curb the outbreak."

The new strain of staph, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, is particularly pervasive and is sometimes resistant to common treatment. Health officials throughout Southern California have reported an increase in the infection as have jail staff at other jail systems throughout the country.

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