Scabies found in nursing home

| Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, 12:27 a.m.

A Washington County nursing home is working to eradicate an outbreak of scabies discovered earlier this month.

A staff member, who developed a rash, tested positive for the parasite, according to Tim Kimmel, administrator of the Washington County Health Center and the county's director of human services.

The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin, where it lives and lays eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies or by sharing clothing or towels.

A resident at the center tested positive for the parasite, Kimmel said.

A dermatologist tested two residents for the parasite this week.

All of the center's 230 employees have been treated with elemite, a cream that gets rid of the mite. Employees apply the cream and bathe 12 hours later, Kimmel said.

Residents are being treated with tablets administered orally, Kimmel said. Such treatment is an alternative to using cream, he said.

The health center, in Chartiers, has 288 beds and is about 90 percent occupied, Kimmel said.

Residents include people recovering from injuries and dementia patients. Kimmel, who has been Washington County's director of human services for 10 years, said this outbreak is not the first in the facility.

“It is not unheard of in institutional settings. We are being open and proactive in trying to get rid of it,” he said.

Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department said outbreaks of scabies are somewhat rare.

“These things do occur from time to time. But they are infrequent, fortunately. I don't think it even happens once a year in Allegheny County,” he said.

Workers at the center are washing and drying bedding, towels and clothing at the hottest possible settings, which kills the parasite. Items that cannot be washed are bagged for at least 72 hours because the parasite cannot live longer than that without contact with humans.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is monitoring the outbreak, said Kait Gillis, a department spokeswoman.

“When there is an outbreak, we make sure the facility is taking the proper steps,” Gillis said.

The state does not keep records of the number of scabies outbreaks, she said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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