The Richmond Register

February 2, 2013

Jail reports scabies problem has been brought under control

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — A problem with scabies, an easily spread skin disease caused by a mite, has been brought under control at the Madison County Detention Center, the county jailer said Friday.

Jailer Doug Thomas said the health issue arose in early January when five or six inmates contracted scabies while housed at the jail, and it spread to some of the jail’s employees.

“It’s all under control now,” Thomas said Friday.

The tiny mites that cause scabies burrow into the skin and deposit eggs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The burrow looks like a pencil mark, and eggs mature after 21 days.

Direct contact with infected people allows the mite to spread, but less often it is spread by sharing bedding or clothing, the library’s entry about scabies stated.

People with scabies develop an itchy rash caused by an allergic reaction to the mite. The rash is often found between the fingers.

The condition is treated by the use of medicated prescription creams. It also is recommended that underwear, towels and bedding be washed in hot water.

Todd Henson, public information officer with the state Department of Corrections, said a complaint was received Jan. 9 about something causing a rash among inmates at the Madison County jail.

Henson said an investigation led to the discovery of too much bleach being used in the laundry, which was causing a condition called contact dermatitis among some inmates.

When asked whether the problem with scabies had been reported to the DOC’s Division of Local Facilities, Henson said he was unaware of the scabies problem.

Henson attempted to obtain more information about whether the scabies outbreak is something that must be reported to the Division of Local Facilities, but he was unsuccessful before the close of business Friday.

Eighty-four county and regional jails in Kentucky are over overseen by the Division of Local Facilities, a part of the Department of Corrections. Each jail is inspected twice a year with the first check announced and the second unannounced.

The Madison County Detention Center’s most recent inspection was in October, and only four violations were cited, according to state records. Three of those four violations were related to overcrowding.

Thomas said when the rashes first appeared, jail officials thought it might have been caused by the bleach used in the laundry process.

“Some people are more allergic than others,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted that with the high number of people booked into the jail on a daily basis, it’s not uncommon to encounter people with poor hygiene who are carrying lice or scabies. Thomas said jail workers make sure inmates get a bath and are treated with the appropriate chemical solutions before being housed in the jail.

Thomas said workers also are vigilant in looking for signs of bedbugs, and he said there has been no problem with bedbugs since he became jailer in January 2011.

The county is looking into expanding the Madison County Detention Center since the jail has suffered from overcrowding for years, leading to a loss of income when state prisoners are transferred to other facilities. According to the Department of Corrections’ weekly inmate count, the MCDC was 141 percent over capacity Thursday. The jail’s capacity is set at 195 beds, and 275 prisoners were at the jail on that day.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.