Wine in Jailhouses Not as Good-Tasting, May Even be Harmful to Health

By Camille H, Parent Herald December 16, 11:25 am
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A series of jailhouse wine poisoning took place in a Utah prison, suggesting that wine from prison is not as good tasting as it seems.

Emergency physicians reported severe botulism poisoning from a batch of potato-based wine or pruno that was cooked up at a prison in Utah. "Evidently the incorporation of an old baked potato in the pruno recipe allowed botulism to develop," said Megan Fix, MD, of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. "The patient who cooked the wine had cooked this recipe approximately 20 times previously without a potato, but his decision to experiment sickened him and seven other inmates. The patients initial reluctance to confess their consumption of pruno could have been deadly since botulism requires fast intervention."

Eight patients arrived at the emergency room complaining of doubled vision, difficulty in swallowing, difficulty in speaking and weakness that took place 54 hours after ingestion of the wine. The amount each inmate consumed varied greatly, with some patients consuming more than two gallons. Those who were severely affected suffered from respiratory failure and were intubated. Treatments for botulism are held in stockpiles by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) making it impossible to immediately be treated.

"The CDC is the only source for botulism anti-toxing," said Dr. Fix. "However, there are a number of steps involved in obtaining it. The CDC recommends that emergency physicians treat patients first, if botulism is suspected, rather than waiting for a positive test. Therefore it's important to contact the CDC to obtain that anti-toxin based on clinical suspension as we can't treat the disease without having the anti-toxin in hand."

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