HALIFAX – There are now three confirmed cases of scabies at the Halifax Infirmary, according to Capital Health.
Spokesperson Everton McLean said one patient and two staff members have been diagnosed with the skin infection. The infected patient has been quarantined.
Another 36 staff may have symptoms but the cases are unconfirmed. No other patients are infected, McLean notes.
“We’re taking precautions to isolate the situation. We’re working with staff and using measures to contain it,” he said.
Though the outbreak was confirmed Thursday, the hospital is still seeing the impacts of the outbreak several days later.
McLean said there have been two sick calls for Tuesday night and, out of five surgeries that had been scheduled for Tuesday, one had to be postponed due to staffing levels as a result of scabies.
Six surgeries had been cancelled Friday due to the outbreak.
Scabies is an infection humans get through tiny mites, said Dr. Robin Taylor, a medical officer of health for the CDHA and IWK.
“They’re very difficult to see. It only lives on humans. The only way to get it is skin to skin contact with another human,” she said.
The CDC states scabies can also be spread by sharing linens, towels or an item of clothing and outbreaks are often common in places with crowded conditions such as nursing homes, extended care facilities and prisons.
Taylor notes symptoms of scabies include an itchy rash that appears in the folds of skin, such as fingers, the groin and the wrist.
“It can happen anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter what your personal hygiene is like, if you’re rich or poor,” she said.
According to the CDC, a person with scabies may not show symptoms during the first two to six weeks they are infected.
Treatment includes a cream or lotion prescribed by a doctor that will kill the mites and their eggs.
“Once you’ve treated it, it’s no longer contagious. You’ve killed the bugs, you’ve killed the eggs, you stop the spread of it,” Taylor said.
She cautions against hysteria over a scabies outbreak.
“The scabies mite doesn’t actually spread disease. It’s not unlike different insects like mosquitoes who carry West Nile. The scabies bug is a nuisance. It causes itching. It spreads from person to person but it’s not actually spreading disease with it.”
McLean said those staff will remain off work until they complete treatment for the scabies.
Staff reported a possible infection on the fifth floor of the Infirmary, the cardiovascular intensive care unit, Thursday morning, which by noon had been confirmed to be scabies.
He adds cleaning staff were on hand Thursday and Friday to clean, disinfect and vacuum the affected areas.
Capital Health held a clinic for staff Tuesday where lotion was given to staff who may have been infected and as a precaution for their families.
McLean said the clinic will be open Wednesday and then be ongoing as needed.
“We’re getting pretty close to normal at this stage,” McLean said.
“We’ve taken the standard precautions required and we addressed the issue as soon as it was made evident.”
However, he adds that Capital Health staff will debrief the situation to assess its response and whether any recommendations will be made moving forward.