HEALTH WARNING: Eight Scabies outbreaks detected in the Canary Islands
The Ministry of Health for the Canary Islands have confirmed that eight scabies outbreaks were registered in the archipelago in January, with three occurring in Tenerife, 3 in Gran Canaria, and 2 in Lanzarote. The Canary Islands Health Service says that they do not consider this to be severe, but warns that it "has come to stay."
Eduardo García Ramos, a technician from the Epidemiology Service of the Public Health Service, attributed these outbreaks to globalisation and the ease of travel. He also reported that the main hotspots are found in socio-healthcare residences and schools, as highlighted in a report by Canarias 7.
This issue has been detected since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the worst numbers recorded in 2023 when an outbreak affected eight people. Consequently, the protocol for action in educational centres was updated last year.
Public Health will need to analyse the number of cases occurring in recent weeks, as Primary Care doctors in the Canary Islands claim to be treating "up to three people per week with scabies."
Understanding Scabies and its Symptoms
Scabies is a skin disease caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, a microscopic parasite that infects the outer layer of human skin. It primarily spreads through direct contact with an infected person, but it can also be transmitted by sharing clothing, bedding, or other personal items, making it highly contagious.
Symptoms of scabies include intense and uncomfortable itching, especially at night, and skin rashes that may appear as small red bumps, blisters, or fine lines on the skin. Commonly affected areas are skin folds such as wrists, elbows, armpits, genitals, and spaces between fingers.
Dr. García Ramos emphasises that this disease is not linked to lower classes or lack of hygiene. He compares it to lice, stating, "Every year, there are cases in schools, and we don't have to stigmatise anyone, as it can happen to anyone." The doctor advises that affected individuals take measures as soon as possible to eliminate it.
Scabies can be treated with prescribed medications, such as creams or lotions containing active ingredients like permethrin or lindane, which kill the mites and their eggs.
It is also crucial to wash bedding, clothing, and other personal items in hot water (at 60 degrees) to eliminate any remaining mites. If this is not possible, leaving them in a dark bag for three to seven days is recommended, as the mite only survives on the skin.
When a case of scabies is detected, it is customary for the patient to isolate until the treatment is applied, and the next day, they can resume normal life.
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