Big Island hospital struck by outbreak of scabies

November 28, 2018 GMT

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — An outbreak of scabies has been confirmed at a Big Island hospital, affecting a number of employees, officials said.

The outbreak of the contagious skin disease caused by parasitic mites was officially identified at the Kona Community Hospital last week, hospital officials said.

The hospital has not said how many people have been infected, but officials said more cases are likely to appear.


Scabies is caused by mites that burrow under the skin and lay eggs, leading to intense itching, according to the state Disease Outbreak Control Division. Symptoms can take about two to four weeks to appear after infection. It can cause a pimple-like rash to form. It spreads from skin-to-skin contact or contact with mite-covered items.

Scabies can be treated by medicated skin cream or lotion followed by a hot bath, according to the division.

Lisa Downing, the hospital’s director of Infection Prevention and Employee Health, told West Hawaii Today that the outbreak was found after an “overabundance of people” reported similar symptoms.

The hospital removes employees with active cases, keeping them out of the facility for 24 hours after treatment.

Downing wouldn’t say how many employees were infected by scabies, but she said a department in the hospital had staffing issues for a time last week.

“We had a little bit of a staffing issue in one of these departments, and it was actually handled very well,” Downing said. “So at no time did we have lack of staff or lack of qualified staff to take care of our patients, but we were a little strained in that one particular area.”

She didn’t name the department.

The hospital’s procedures and protocols for infectious outbreaks have been implemented.

“Our people do a really good job of following our protocols here,” Downing said. “Nothing like this has ever happened before, and I can pretty much guarantee you that everyone is going to be hyper vigilant from this point forward.”