Scabies in California Nursing Homes
Nursing home facilities have multiple high-risk residents with compromised immune systems and pre-existing conditions. These conditions make elderly residents vulnerable to harmful infections such as scabies.
The Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC) have noted that assisted living facilities and nursing homes are common sites of scabies outbreaks. These outbreaks often occur due to delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and inadequate treatment from nursing home staff.
If your loved one has suffered harm from a scabies infection at a long-term care facility, a nursing home abuse lawyer from Berberian Ain LLP can help. Our attorneys can help you hold the facility responsible for emotional or physical injuries to your loved one from a scabies infection. Your attorney can investigate if staff members’ neglect and lack of infection prevention and control measures caused the scabies outbreak to help you seek compensation for your loved one.
What is Scabies?
A scabies infection occurs when the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) burrows into the top layer of a person’s skin to lay eggs. Scabies infections spread rapidly through prolonged skin-to-skin contact in crowded prisons, childcare centers, and healthcare organizations like assisted living facilities.
Crusted scabies, or Norwegian scabies, is a highly contagious and severe form of scabies in elderly residents and people with immunocompromised systems and disabilities. This infection appears as thick skin crusts and contains up to 2 million scabies mites. People with crusted scabies are contagious and can spread the infestation through direct skin contact or contaminated items like bedding, furniture, and clothes.
What Are the Scabies Symptoms?
When a resident has scabies, symptoms don’t appear for about 2 to 6 weeks. Despite a lack of symptoms, the infested resident can still transmit scabies during this period.
Scabies’ most common symptoms, an itchy sensation and rash are due to a reaction to proteins and fecal matter released by the human itch mite. The earliest scabies symptom is severe itchiness, typically occurring at night.
The most common outward symptom of scabies is a papular scabies rash resembling pimples that appear throughout different areas of the body. You may notice this rash on the following areas of your loved one’s body:
- Shoulder blades
- Webbing between the fingers
The severe itching from scabies can trigger scratching, resulting in skin sores. The sores may become infected with bacteria naturally present on the skin, like beta-hemolytic streptococci. These bacterial infections can also lead to post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, a kidney inflammation.
What Are the Treatments for Scabies?
Scabies treatment involves applying scabicide lotions and creams all over the body, from the neck to the feet and toes, to kill the mites. Itching may persist after scabies treatment due to hypersensitivity to the mites and their feces. If skin sores are present, an infected person will need an antibiotic to prevent a more serious infection.
What Are Scabies Infection and Prevention Measures for Nursing Homes?
The CDC recommends specific measures for managing and preventing scabies outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. Prevention measures include:
- Implementation of an early detection program for new scabies cases, such as routine visual checks or screenings to identify infections early
- Infection control measures during patient interactions, such as wearing gloves, avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact, and frequently washing hands
- Diagnosis of scabies with a dermatologist on staff
- Procedures for environmental disinfection, including laundering patient bedding and routine cleaning and vacuuming
- Treatment and follow-up of patients, staff, and visitors who have had prolonged skin-to-skin contact or contact with the bedding or clothing of a resident with a confirmed scabies infection
While undergoing treatment, residents diagnosed with crusted scabies should be in isolation from other non-infected patients. Having a designated group of caregivers solely responsible for patients with crusted scabies can reduce the risk of the infection spreading.
Unfortunately, understaffed or negligent nursing facilities may neglect to adhere to scabies control and prevention protocols, leading to outbreaks among susceptible residents.
What Causes Scabies in Nursing Homes?
A nursing home may experience an outbreak of scabies after accepting new residents with undetected scabies who have been in contact with other infested people in the local community. Common nursing care procedures, such as physical examinations, bathing, and changing soiled linens, can increase the risk of transmission as they involve extensive physical contact.
A lawyer for nursing home infection claims can investigate whether a facility failed to properly screen new residents for scabies, implement adequate infection control measures, or train staff on how to prevent and manage outbreaks. Your lawyer will also evaluate if the nursing facility neglected their residents’ quality of life, violating their right to be free from harm under California law.
Nursing Home Abuse and Other Infections
Long-term care facilities in California are host to several infectious conditions that put patients’ health in danger. Common nursing home infections that can endanger your loved one’s well-being include:
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also known as MRSA, can cause staph infections. MRSA spreads rapidly if health facilities don’t follow infection control protocols. Skin-to-skin contact, close proximity, and sharing of items can transmit MRSA to anyone, regardless of age or health status.
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)
C. difficile, or Clostridium difficile, can quickly spread throughout nursing homes without appropriate sanitation practices. It frequently emerges in patients taking antibiotics. The CDC reports that people are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to C. difficile while on antibiotics or during the month following the antibiotic treatment.
Older people are vulnerable to sepsis due to weakened immune systems and underlying medical conditions. Infections can result from injuries suffered by the elderly, such as broken bones from falls or pressure sores. If the nursing home staff doesn’t treat a resident with injuries immediately, the infections can spread through the bloodstream and cause sepsis.
Patients in understaffed nursing homes may be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. For instance, nursing homes in Long Beach had over 300 cases of COVID-19 in 2020. Most of these cases were from eight nursing homes with previous poor health inspection ratings.
Nursing Home Scabies FAQs:
How do nursing home patients get scabies?
Patients in nursing homes can get scabies from skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, sharing clothing or bedding, or direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Infections are more likely in nursing homes with poor hygiene care or a lack of sanitization procedures.
How to identify scabies?
Common signs of scabies in elderly patients include itching, rashes, and red bumps. These are typically found near a patient’s wrists, elbows, or buttocks. You may also notice crusted sores in severe or prolonged cases.
What does scabies look like?
Because microscopic mites cause scabies, you cannot see them with your naked eye. However, a scabies infection may look like small red bumps or blisters. Scabies can also leave visible tracks if the mites burrow under a patient’s skin.
Is scabies contagious?
Scabies is a highly contagious infection. The mites that cause scabies can survive for up to 72 hours on clothing, bedding, and other surfaces, making it easy to spread from person to person in a nursing home setting.
Is scabies common in nursing home facilities?
Scabies is fairly common in nursing homes among elderly patients who are in close contact or have dementia or a weakened immune system. Outbreak rates in residential care homes can range from 15% to 93%, depending on a facility’s conditions.
Berberian Ain LLP Can Help
An uncontrolled scabies outbreak in a nursing home or assisted living facility can increase the risk of serious complications from the infestation or other infections for your loved one.
If your loved one in a care facility contracted scabies due to negligent care, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer from Berberian Ain LLP. Our experienced elder abuse attorneys will help seek compensation on behalf of your relative for negligent nursing home care that led to their infection.
We will investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s case and gather evidence to file a claim for damages. We can help you and your loved one win a settlement for medical bills, moving expenses, and emotional distress related to their scabies infection.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, and let us help you protect your loved one’s right to adequate treatment as a nursing home resident.