A hospital in Hawaii is battling a scabies outbreak after “a number of people” reported symptoms of the highly contagious skin condition, a spokeswoman said.
A spokeswoman for Kona Community Hospital said Wednesday that the outbreak was confirmed Nov. 19, although she declined to say how many people had been infected, citing employee and patient privacy.
Those who may have been exposed at the hospital, which is in Kealakekua, were contacted and treated for infection, and staff members were given instruction on scabies, according to a statement from the hospital.
Scabies occurs when a microscopic mite, known as Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, digs into a person’s skin and lays eggs, causing an itchy rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is extremely contagious and spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and through clothes, linens and furniture, the CDC said.
Symptoms may not appear for one to two months, but during that time, a person can still pass on the infection. Rashes often pop up between a person’s fingers, or on the wrist, elbow or armpit, among other places, according to the CDC.
The CDC said aggressive scratching can also cause skin sores, which can lead to bacterial infections, such as staph. Scabies is treated with prescription ointment.
Kona Community Hospital said in the statement that Lisa Downing, director of Infection Prevention and Employee Health at the hospital, alerted the Hawaii State Department of Health to “ensure that all necessary steps to contain and mitigate the outbreak were being implemented.” Downing told West Hawaii Today that the hospital is “still in the middle” of the scabies outbreak.
“It’s definitely not over yet,” Downing said.
It’s unclear where the outbreak originated.
“Typically, when you have something like this happen, it’s not just one thing, one person, one unit, one issue,” Downing told the newspaper about the source of the scabies outbreak. “And I think that our facility does a great job making sure that our patients are safe. Even looking at all the information I have, there’s really no blame to go around.”
The state health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.