Day Care Stays Open Despite Scabies Outbreak


An outbreak of scabies has affected dozens of children and staff members at a Chicago day care.

The condition, which is a highly contagious, is a "reaction to a mite that crawls or lives within the skin," said dermatologist Stavonnie Patterson, WLS reports. The infestation is uncomfortable, but is not considered life-threatening.

The mites cause a red, bumpy skin reaction that is extremely itchy. It is also easy to spread from person to person, even if an affected person does not show symptoms.

"The most common places that we see it is between fingers, sometimes around the bellybutton, underneath the arms, the elbows and knees are pretty common, and then in babies and children, on the bottom of feet," said Patterson. "You're contagious until you've been treated."

The mite that causes scabies is called the human inch mite, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. The mite, which is so small that it cannot be seen on the skin, burrows into a person's top layer of skin, where it feeds and lays eggs.

Scabies is acquired most often through skin-to-skin contact, but can sometimes be picked up from infested items like furniture and bedding. The mites can survive without human contact for up to 72 hours.

The outbreak was identified at the Paulo Freire Center, a day care center in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The center is run by social services organization Chicago Commons.

"Scabies is an incredibly challenging disease to, to kind of capture," explained Sarah Frick of  Chicago Commons. "It's carried by human beings, so if someone is exposed to that but they have not yet presented symptoms, they're still contagious."

The Paulo Freire Center has so far stayed open despite the outbreak. The center has been cleaned twice, and the vice president of external affairs at the Chicago Commons says the organization is considering closing the day care center to stop the spread of the scabies.

"The health and safety of our families are our No. 1 priority, however we also understand that our parents need to work and they need a place for their kids to go to that's safe, so we're exploring what the next steps will be," said Frick.

Parent Oriana Gomez said that she's grateful for the staff keeping the center open and trying to stop the infestation's spread.

"We've been told that we have to keep checking their skin, and if they have any bumps not to bring them in, to take them to the doctor," said Gomez. "It's an amazing center, I've never had an issue with the center and it kills me that this is happening."

Another parent who was only identified by her first name, Olivia, said that she would keep her children out of the Paulo Freire Center until the outbreak is dealt with.

"It's disgusting, it's scary, you know. It's something that you don't want to bring to your house," Olivia said. "You don't want your children to get infected with it."

There have not been any new reported cases at the center since June 1.

Sources: WLS, American Academy of Dermatology / Photo credit: Pixabay

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