COVID-19 within a large UK prison with a high number of vulnerable adults, march to june 2020: An outbreak investigation and screening event

Jennifer Wilburn*, Eleanor Blakey, Amy Trindall, Helen Burr, Vince Tanti, Sue Doolan, Ian Palmer, Tony Jewell, Ravikumar Balakrishnan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To describe the public health response to COVID-19 within a large prison with a high number of clinically vulnerable residents. Design: An outbreak investigation was undertaken among all residents and staff. A screening event involved nose and throat swab samples from residents and staff, examined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). An electronic questionnaire regarding risk factors was distributed to staff. Results: 58 residents out of 1,156 (5.0%, 95% CI: 3.8 – 6.3) and 129 staff out of 510 (25.3%, 95% CI: 21.5 – 29.1) displayed COVID-19 symptoms, including six and eight confirmed, respectively. Residents reported cough symptoms with no fever (29.3%), followed by a cough and fever (15.5%). 62.1% of symptomatic residents were 50 years or older, placing them in the group at risk for severe COVID-19 disease. Wing I had the highest attack rate (12.5%). 1,063 individuals were swabbed during the 5-day screening event, and all had negative swab results. Conclusion: The findings were consistent with the hypothesis of a propagating outbreak with decreasing incidence since the peak date of onset. COVID-19 transmission within a high-risk setting was quickly contained, and an explosive outbreak was prevented through a multi-agency public health response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-353
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this publication, and they do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of their respective employers. The corresponding author had full access to all of the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication. The authors would also like to thank the following for their role in the incident response:, PHE National and Regional Health and Justice Teams. PHE HPT Core Prison Team. HMPPS prison governor, COVID-19 team, and healthcare team. HMPPS National COVID response team. NHS England. Field Service East of England, PHE. Director of Public Health, Cambridgeshire County Council. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group. DHSC.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Epidemiology
  • Outbreak investigation
  • Prison health


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