YNN is reporting today that Rochester General Hospital has been coping with a small outbreak of scabies during the last two weeks. The station reports that the hospital was notified on Oct. 15 that a recent patient had a severe case of scabies. Since then, there have been four confirmed and 16 suspected cases diagnosed in patients and staff.
Scabies is an infestation of the skin by a mite, a very tiny insect. The mite burrows beneath the skin. Sensitivity to the mite and its feces produces the rash and itching that are the hallmarks of scabies. Mites do not live more than 72 hours outside the human body and the use of pesticides in the environment is unnecessary and not effective in controlling the parasites.
Both YNN and WHAM 13 are reporting that the New York State Health Department has issued a warning to all hospitals and health care facilities in Western New York as other facilities have also reported the condition. The mites spread from person to person through skin contact, and hospital personal are using gloves and gowns while treating patients to prevent the spread within the hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that the scabies is contagious long before the characteristic rash and severe itching appears. The intense itching can cause a patient to scratch hard enough to abraid or lacerate the skin. This, in turn, allows staph bacteria to enter and can cause associated infections. These include MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections that are difficult to treat and can be life threatening.
Treatment for scabies is by prescription only. The medications are intended to kill the mites, and in some formulations, to kill mite eggs. Provided as a lotion, the medication should be applied to the entire body for children and babies, and from the neck down for adults. Any clothing, bedding or towels used by the patient in the three days before the treatment begins should be decontaminated as described by the CDC. Since patients can be infested and symptom free for some time, all close contacts of a scabies patient should be treated at the same time as the patient.