50 Hawaii hospital employees reportedly infected in scabies outbreak

A scabies outbreak at Kealakekua, Hawaii-based Kona Community Hospital was reported Nov. 19 and has potentially infected more than 50 hospital employees, according to West Hawaii Today.

Here are six things to know:

1. Lisa Downing, director of infection prevention and employee health at Kona Community Hospitals, indicated people started showing scabies symptoms Nov. 19.

"We're still in the middle … of the outbreak, so it's definitely not over yet," Ms. Downing told West Hawaii Today. "I don't have totals of numbers and probably won't until at least six to eight weeks out."

2. Another source, cited by West Hawaii Today, asked to remain nameless because contacting the press violates hospital policy. The source indicated more than 50 hospital employees have a scabies diagnosis. Ms. Downing did not confirm or deny the number of employees sickened, but indicated the number of scabies cases is likely to rise.

3. The source of the scabies outbreak is unknown. Ms. Downing said with disease outbreaks, there is not one definite source to point to. The anonymous source said the outbreak likely started with a patient and that there may have been a miscommunication that led to a misdiagnosis.

4. Patients with compromised immune systems face the greatest risk for contracting the infection. Hospital policy for infection outbreaks is to remove any employee with an active case from the facility for a full 24 hours after their treatment has started. The Hawaii Department of Health supports Kona Community Hospital with these steps.

5. Staffing will continue to be a struggle due to more than 50 hospital employees being infected with scabies. The anonymous source indicated the department where the outbreak started was an intensive care unit. Kona Community Hospital officials have only informed staff members, infected patients and the families of patients of the outbreak and increased the hospital's cleaning efforts.

"To notify every one of our patients when there is any kind of contagious disease when they come in, that's not feasible. And frankly, scabies … it's not life threatening," Ms. Downing told West Hawaii Today. "We do not and are not going to notify patients coming in of that potential risk. We don't do it for any other conditions either."

6. Janice Okubo, Hawaii Department of Health spokesperson, indicated in an email to Kona Community Hospital that hospitals are not required to report scabies outbreaks and the branch of Hawaii's Disease Investigation does not track scabies.

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