KAILUA-KONA — Kona Community Hospital has lifted visitation restrictions after 40 days of patient quarantine, the hospital announced in a release Monday.
While the 94-bed hospital never stopped admitting and treating patients, management closed its doors to all visitors on Dec. 6. The decision came nearly three weeks after an outbreak of scabies was identified and began spreading rapidly through the ranks of KCH staff, eventually crossing over the patient population.
KCH leadership amended the policy over the followings day days to allow limited visitation in the intensive care and obstetrics units, where critically-ill patients and new/expecting mothers and their babies are cared for, respectively.
“Although precautions have been relaxed, hospital leaders state that it is too early to issue an all clear,” KCH wrote in its Monday release. “Scabies has an incubation period of two to eight weeks, during which an exposed person can still spread scabies. The hospital will continue to monitor employees and patients for the maximum period.”
Scabies, a contagious yet common infection, spreads primarily by way of prolonged skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread for a short time through contact with clothing, towels or bedding used by an infected person.
The disease is caused by mites that burrow under the skin and lay their eggs. The most common symptoms include intense itching and a pimple-like rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Hospital staff diagnosed the first cases of scabies at KCH on Nov. 19. Since that time, KCH said it has moved to disinfect the entire facility with an EPA-registered product and provided preventive treatment to all employees who deal directly with patients as well as non-patient care workers deemed to have potentially been exposed, the release stated.
Working with the state Department of Health, KCH also engaged in educational outreach within the hospital and outwardly with the community along with alerting local health agencies and physicians. According to the release, daily surveillance of patients and staff remains active.
The hospital has yet to release the total number of staff and patients who’ve contracted scabies in the nearly two months it has persisted inside the facility. However, a source with knowledge of the situation told West Hawaii Today on Nov. 26, a week after the outbreak began, that more than 50 employees had been diagnosed with the parasite at that time.