14News reported a nasty outbreak of scabies at Parkview Care Center nursing home. Several patients and staff members have shown symptoms of scabies. Scabies is not an infection, but an infestation. Tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei set up shop in the outer layers of human skin.
The skin does not take kindly to the invasion. As the mites burrow and lay eggs inside the skin, the infestation leads to relentless itching and an angry rash. Another hallmark of scabies is the appearance of track-like burrows in the skin. These raised lines are usually grayish-white or skin-colored. They are created when female mites tunnel just under the surface of the skin. After creating a burrow, each female lays 10 to 25 eggs inside.
Nursing home staff are trained to recognize the possibility of scabies in the institutional setting. A simple microscope can identify mites, eggs, or fecal matter from a skin scraping. It is contagious and can spread quickly through close physical contact. The scabies mite can’t jump or fly, and it crawls very slowly. Scabies typically spreads through prolonged, skin-to-skin contact that gives the mites time to crawl from one person to another. Scabies is so contagious, doctors often recommend treatment for entire contact groups. The CDC recommends all long-term care patients and staff be regularly screened for scabies.
Crusted scabies (also called Norwegian scabies) is a very severe infestation involving tens of thousands of mites on a single person. This causes the skin to develop thick crusts full of mites and eggs. Crusted scabies is most common in people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and people who are disabled. This type of scabies is highly contagious and requires swift recognition and treatment to prevent outbreaks and fatalities.