Scabies infiltrate Richmond senior center

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jul 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-23 19:17:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- More than a dozen people have been diagnosed with scabies at a Richmond senior care center.

The first case was reported on July 11 and then a number of other people came down with symptoms at Windsor Memory Care on Grove Avenue.

Workers donned with masks and gloves could be seen walking in and out of the building Wednesday.

A CBS 6 viewer alerted the station to multiple scabies cases at the senior living facility and the facility administrator confirmed the outbreak.

It started after one of the residents was diagnosed with the skin disease two weeks ago. Then an employee came down with symptoms over the weekend.

As a result, 17 people have been infected with scabies, which is caused by microscopic bugs that can get into the upper layer of the skin. The pests are most persistent in between fingers, in the wrists and at the elbows and thighs.

"They can stay in the body for up to three months without treatment,” said the Richmond City Health District's Okey Utah,  an epidemiologist.

Utah said often times people may not know they have scabies until symptoms kick in.

"Intense itching is usually the symptoms people would notice especially at night. If that stays prolonged and people are itching away it could lead to infection,” said Utah.

Utah said the agency did receive a scabies complaint from the Windsor Memory Care, but he could not speak directly to the case. However, he said it is not uncommon to see a scabies outbreak in a confined place.

"Every now and then they could pop up in a school. They could pop up in a jail system in an assisted living and a nursing home,” said Utah.

Staff members at Windsor Memory Care contacted family members Tuesday to inform them about the scabies cases.

Many tell CBS 6 off camera that the facility is handling the situation properly, offering treatment for residents and staff -- and warnings for visitors.

If you get scabies, doctors must prescribe a cream to get rid of it.

"It's usually applied from the neck downwards. All the way to the toes for adults. And for kids, they apply it to the head and face,” said Utah.

Experts said the best way to prevent scabies is to wash your hands and to avoid contact with people who have it.

Management at the facility said staffers have been wearing gowns and gloves, which is required by the CDC. In addition, all outside agencies who provide service to the center, like Hospice, have also been notified.