Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is trying to prevent the spread of a skin condition known as crusted scabies. Also called Norwegian scabies, the disease is non-life threatening and easily treatable if caught in time.
It starts with an infestation by the human itch mite, and is usually spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact with another person. But in people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly, it can be more severe, and more easily transmitted through casual contact with the patient or the environment. Symptoms include intense itching and a pimple-like rash but may take as long as 4-6 weeks to appear in a person who has not had scabies before.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock has discovered one case in a patient. That means some Medical Center staffers and visitors may also be at risk. So, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the hospital will offer free screening clinics and prophylactic treatment, including a topical skin cream, to anyone who may have been exposed to the scabies during the last two months. The clinic will also offer laundry and housecleaning instructions.
Staff members and former patients and their families who have had contact with the infected patient have been notified about risk of infection. There is also a public inquiry line through the New Hampshire State Department of Health and Human Services to answer questions. That number is 603-271-9461, and it is available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. though Monday, Oct. 6. Medical Center employees may report suspected cases at 603-653-3850.
The hospital clinics are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 3 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 4, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Auditorium C-D in the main hospital. These are primarily intended for people and family members who have worked at or visited with the hospital. Officials say there is no general public health risk at this time.