By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Sybil Strachan Primary School on Carmichael Road will be closed to students today after it was confirmed some two dozen students there were infected with scabies.
Students have been advised to report to TG Glover Professional Development and Research School on Horseshoe Drive during school hours today.
This came after Health Minister Duane Sands confirmed the scabies outbreak yesterday, noting a public health team went in to administer treatment yesterday.
Opposition spokesperson on health, Senator Michael Darville also called for the Department of Social Services and other organisations to intervene and ensure students are able to “meet the necessary hygiene standard required by the school”.
Yesterday Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson announced there was scabies at the school.
When asked about the outbreak, Dr Sands told The Tribune: “We got a call today that there are a number of students at Carmichael Primary (as the school was formerly called) — the school nurse would have initially suggested that there were seven cases, and then as of about 3.30 this afternoon (Thursday) we now believe at least 18 cases and perhaps as many as 23.”
Dr Sands confirmed these cases are students, adding he is not aware of any faculty being infected.
“This is not an uncommon situation,” he continued. “You can have scabies outbreaks anywhere that people congregate. And so the public health team would have gone in today, one, educated the teachers and staff and then the students and parents and then initiated the appropriate treatment.”
Dr Sands added he is not aware of whether such an incident has occurred at this specific school before, but noted it has “certainly” happened at other local schools in the past.
“Scabies is the type of thing that can happen in isolated instances and invariably it’s brought in from home,” he said.
“Scabies is due to an organism, a mite, which gets into the body…the females tend to burrow into the skin and lay eggs and then those eggs hatch and you get juveniles, which then become adults, which mate, and then the cycle starts all over again. But the process of them burrowing under the skin can be very, very itchy and (the infected person) can also (have) allergic reactions to the organism.
“So it’s not dangerous. It is a nuisance. It happens everywhere in the world… it can happen in hospitals…a nursing home, anywhere where you have people in close contact.”
Dr Sands said the only way to prevent contracting scabies is to not be exposed to someone with scabies mites, as the illness is spread by “direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person”.
“It can take a number of weeks, even after you’re infected, before you know you’re infected,” he said.
Dr Sands added treatment is either the use of topical lotions or shampoos and sometimes oral medication.
He also said there is no reason to close the school. He spoke with The Tribune before the Ministry of Education issued a notice saying classes would convene at a different location today.
“Obviously, there is a tremendous concern about whether or not this is an issue of hygiene. It’s certainly not an issue of hygiene necessarily in the institution or in the school, in the sense that you can clean the place until you’re blue in the face. If you have somebody that is carrying the mite, cleaning is not going to stop it,” Dr Sands said.
“The only thing that’s going to stop it would be treatment of the infected or affected persons and all of their contacts. And then follow-up with appropriate screening until you’re sure that the situation is under control.
“Generally what we recommend is that after, students once they’re treated, they can return to school the next day. There’s no need to close the school. But you know, you’re dealing with fear, dealing with concern. There is no reason to close the school down, there is no rationale to close the school down,” he continued. “If you look at the guidelines published for school systems around the world, you will see that there is no recommendation that, certainly for scabies in school, that the schools be closed.”
Dr Sands added the original person who contracted scabies would have got it at home.
“The original person would have gotten it at home, and then they would have brought it into school, and then they would have infected their classmates.
“It is impossible to know what the home condition is of any given individual. So, because this is going to be imported typically from someplace else, now that’s for the initial case. Now once that one child has scabies, he or she can pass that on to all of his or her classmates or playmates. At which case the school is the place where they’re getting it,” Dr Sands said.
For his part, Dr Darville described scabies as a “very contagious situation”.
“It’s very important that the school nurse and the Department of Public Health home service begin to identify the children (that) have been affected and go into the various (residences) to ensure that other family members are not infected,” he said.
“But it really begins to point out the fact that we have to be very careful because of the hygiene level that is going on in the various communities — it may be lack of running water.
“And so it’s important to look at those home situations and if we find that the individuals do not have the proper hygiene mechanisms in place then it’s important that the Department of Social Services intervene to assist the families to ensure that they have the basic necessities in order to make sure that the children meet the necessary hygiene standard that is required by the school.
“So it’s the school nurse, it’s the Department of Public Health, it’s community nursing, as well as Social Services— not just the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health. So it’s a combination of things,” the senator said.