Scabies-triggered visitor restriction still in place at Kona Community Hospital

  • Patient visitation remains restricted at Kona Community Hospital as the facility works to handle an outbreak of scabies. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A sign canceling patient room visits is posted on the entrance to Kona Community Hospital on Dec. 7. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Patient visitation remains restricted at Kona Community Hospital as the facility works to handle an outbreak of scabies.

As of Friday, all staff members at the hospital had been treated for scabies whether they’ve shown symptoms or not, but the restriction on visiting patients at the facility, which was put into place Dec. 6, is still in effect, said Judy Donovan, KCH spokeswoman.

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“We hope to have a better update mid- to late- next week,” Donovan said, noting that nothing had changed since last press release issued Dec. 6.

The hospital is continuing to admit and treat patients, and all outpatient services remain open, Donovan said.

Preventive measures in combination with limited contact are the hospital’s strategy to deal with the highly infectious disease caused by mites that burrow under the skin and lay their eggs.

West Hawaii Today broke the news of the outbreak on Nov. 26 after an anonymous source familiar with the situation inside the hospital said more than 50 staff members had been diagnosed with scabies. The hospital employs about 450 people.

The number of people with scabies since the hospital confirmed the outbreak on Nov. 19 has not been provided. The hospital said on Dec. 6 its personnel has been working to contain the spread of scabies.

“Our surveillance of this situation will be ongoing for up to 8 weeks,” said Lisa Downing, Infection Prevention and Employee Health Director, said in the release. “The hospital’s control protocols are aligned with CDC recommendations for controlling and containing a scabies outbreak. The Hawaii Department of Health has also provided support.”

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Scabies is a highly contagious parasitic infection but often easily treatable. It is caused by a mite that burrows into the skin where it lays its eggs. The primary symptom is an itchy rash that can appear on several areas across the body. The hospital said it is not a public health threat.

The infection is most commonly spread through direct, skin-to-skin contact, but can also be transmitted for short periods through contact with clothing, towels and bedding, according to the DOH.

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