Health center treating scabies outbreak

September 25, 2013
Exterior of the Washington County Health Center in Chartiers Township Wednesday. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Members of the staff of Washington County Health Center in Arden, Chartiers Township, were undergoing in-service training Tuesday as part of an effort to eradicate scabies, a mite that lives on the human body.

A rash was first noticed earlier this month on a staff member who tested positive for the parasite.

The facility took steps to end the outbreak in that unit, including application of a topical cream on staff and patients, thorough cleaning and laundering,

But scabies appeared in yet another unit.

Skin rashes also appeared Tuesday in a third unit, and two people were tested by a dermatologist. One was positive for scabies and the other was negative.

Residents in the third unit and staff in the entire building, which has a capacity of 288 beds, are being treated with tablets administered orally, said Tim Kimmel, health center administrator and Washington County director of human services. “You don’t need both. You either do one or the other,” Kimmel said. “Our goal is to stop the cycle. We’re being proactive.”

The administrator said the health center cannot keep patients in the dark about the outbreak.

“Only families of affected residents would be contacted,” Kimmel said. “We have to notify patients and families.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control website, “When a person is infested with scabies mites the first time, symptoms may not appear for up to two months. However, an infested person can transmit scabies even if they do not have symptoms. Institutional outbreaks can be difficult to control and require a rapid, aggressive and sustained response.”

Scabies is passed by skin-to-skin contact.

Bedding, towels and clothing should be laundered and dried at the hottest possible settings.

Items that can’t be washed should be isolated in bags for at least 72 hours because the scabies mite doesn’t survive without human contact.

“We have rashes all the time in this building that aren’t necessarily scabies,” said Kimmel, who named administrator Nov. 1 after a stint as an assistant administrator.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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