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Scabies infestations put nursing home residents in danger

As other states do, Georgia has a regulatory agency that provides oversight to nursing home facilities. Such agencies should investigate reports of hazards and safety violations and ensure that these are corrected. According to the Washington Post, the Georgia Department of Community Health was notified of more than one scabies outbreak at a for-profit nursing home facility.

The local health department received reports of infected residents and staff members at the Georgia facility in 2013 and 2015, and an unreported outbreak occurred in 2014. One resident, who initially broke out with the rash that indicates the parasites in 2013, died two years later due to bacteria in the bloodstream caused by scabies. The Georgia DCH is not required to investigate scabies outbreaks and did not do so in this circumstance. Someone from the agency did send the state's handbook on how to control and eradicate scabies.

The Georgia Scabies Handbook notes that infestations are particularly contagious in nursing homes, where frequent skin-to-skin contact between staff and residents is inevitable. The state encourages all long-term care facilities to develop a scabies prevention program.

Family members, visitors, volunteers and other possibly exposed people should be contacted and informed of the infestation or suspected infestation. When one person has been diagnosed with an infestation, anyone such as staff members or family members who have had direct contact with him or her should be treated, as well as the patient. There are various medicated ointments, creams and lotions that a doctor may prescribe.

Because the mites can live for two to three days without a host under moderately humid conditions, transmission can also occur through bed linens and clothing if they are not cleaned properly. This typically involves either washing them in hot water and drying them in a hot dryer, or sealing them up and storing them for a week so the mites will die from lack of contact with human skin. Potentially infested areas should be vacuumed thoroughly. Other preventative measures should also be in place to ensure that the infestation does not spread.

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