An infestation of scabies has hit 16 residents and eight staff members at Valley Park Manor Care Centre in Red Deer.
Scabies are six-legged mites around 0.4 mm in length that burrow into the skin and cause intense itching in those infested. Scabies look like a tiny crab, but they are difficult to see with the naked eye.
An individual who is infested appears to have a rash.
Dan Woods, Alberta Health Services director of infection prevention and control, said it’s not unusual to have a scabies outbreak in long-term care facilities.
“It’s one of the populations that it hits the most,” Woods said.
“It’s very difficult to diagnose. Often you’ll get a number of cases before there is a definitive diagnosis.”
He said because scabies is not a reportable condition he couldn’t say exactly how many infestations there have been in the province.
The nursing home staff noticed an issue four weeks ago, with a number of residents having a nondescript rash.
Last Thursday, an infectious disease physician visited the nursing home and diagnosed the rash as scabies.
The first round of treatment started Monday and will continue until today (Wednesday) , with all of the residents receiving the cream treatment and all of their clothes and bedding being washed.
Woods said starting Monday, a second round of treatment will be done.
He said certain items that can’t be washed will be placed in plastic bags for seven days so that the mites will die if they are on the item. In all, 16 of the 80 residents were infested.
The staff members are treating themselves at home.
Woods said there are no long-term health effects as the result of scabies, but it is intensely uncomfortable for people who have it.
A sign has been placed on the front door letting visitors know about what is going on.
However, Woods said they aren’t insisting visitors stay away.
He said for transmission to take place it requires prolonged intimate contact between individuals.
Woods said they don’t know where the infestation came from. He said it could have come from a visitor, or even a staff member.
“The condition can strike anyone of any age, of any race, regardless of personal hygiene,” he said.