Scabies

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are specialists in elder abuse and nursing home neglect. We have years of experience preparing cases where nursing home residents have suffered preventable infections, such as MRSA and scabies. We believe that the elderly should not have to suffer through painful and damaging infections because of a facility’s neglect and are ready to fight for those who are victims of such abuses.

Scabies outbreaks frequently occur in nursing facilities, mainly due to the crowded conditions and close body contacts between nursing staff and residents, while allows for transfer of the parasites from person to person. Scabies is usually transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, through scabies mites that borrow into the skin and lay their eggs. But scabies can also be spread through the nursing home environment on clothes and medical devices if a resident has the atypical form known as Norwegian or “crusted” scabies.

Crusted scabies occurs more frequently among the elderly because of their compromised immune systems. In this form, a large crust of skin, filled with scabies eggs and mites, builds up. While this condition is not generally as symptomatic as the regular form, it much more contagious as flakes that break off from the skin can survive on objects and clothes for up to 3 days. Unrecognized crusted scabies can act as an infection reservoir in a nursing home, causing mass outbreaks among the residents.

Prompt containment of scabies followed by thorough treatment measures is crucial for successful infection control. To avoid delayed diagnosis and thus the increased chance of an outbreak, nursing staff must be educated and trained to recognize signs of scabies, such as itching, pimple-like skin rashes (especially between the fingers), skin abrasions from scratching, and pencil-mark lines on the skin. If a resident is diagnosed with scabies, he or she must be immediately isolated for treatment, and anyone who had close contact with the resident must be tested to avoid outbreaks. All of the infected resident's clothing and bedding must be machine washed and decontaminated, and their rooms must be vacuumed, cleaned, and disinfected.

Treatment measures include the application of medicated creams or oral anti-parasitic medications. Scabies can generally be cured without further complications, although a secondary skin rashes and blister caused by intense scratching is not an uncommon occurrence. Sores generated in this way can become contaminated with bacteria, leading to more serious infections. But no matter the severity, scabies infestations are very uncomfortable for nursing home residents, who commonly have more fragile and sensitized skin to begin with. In order to prevent repeat outbreaks, the infected residents should be tested for scabies even up to 2 and 4 weeks after the completion of treatment. (For more information about recognizing and treating scabies infestations see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.)

Even though scabies is not a fatal or life threatening condition, the fact that it negatively affects nursing home residents’ quality of life means that failure to prevent outbreaks is a violation of patients’ rights. Skilled nursing facilities are required by law to provide a healthy and safe environment to their residents, free from the threat of medical and physical harm. Scabies outbreaks are preventable with the implementation of proper infection control procedures and the maintenance of staff and patient hygiene. If the nursing home in which your loved one resides has failed to effectively deal with recurrent scabies outbreaks, because of understaffing problems or general neglect, please contact us today. Tell our attorneys about your situation in a free consultation to see how we can stop the abuse suffered by your loved one.