Scabies outbreak prompts awareness

Students in Murray Hall were recently on the lookout for symptoms of scabies after some students were diagnosed, Tracey Tessel, registered nurse at student health services said.

Scabies is a skin infection caused by a microscopic mite that burrows into the skin and causes pimple-like irritations and severe itching, according to a fact sheet from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Scabies is most often transmitted from direct skin-to-skin contact, according the fact sheet.

Students in Murray were sent e-mails from Housing and Residence Life on Nov. 14 with the fact sheet to explain scabies, its symptoms and how it can be transferred from one individual to another.

Freshman Melanie Laursen said she was concerned when she first heard about the situation.

“I was kind of freaked out at first,” she said. “I guess the whole idea of being in really close quarters with people kind of freaked us out; we share bathrooms, showers . I was paranoid because I didn’t want to get it.”

Associate director of Housing and Residence Life Deborah Newman said she is not aware that the occurrence of scabies in the dorms has ever happened in the past. Housing wanted to make sure they gave students correct information from student health services, she said.

“Largely the big thing (Student Health Services) shared with us is that (scabies) is not easily passed . there is not a huge risk for infection,” Newman said.

Several students who thought they might have symptoms of scabies were seen, Tessel said, adding that she thought people felt they were at risk when they weren’t.

“Sometimes people read symptoms and think they are having them,” Tessel said. “It sounded like there was some misinformation going on.”

Tessel said the biggest precaution students can take is simply being knowledgeable about the situation.

“I think education on how its transmitted is important,” she said. “The thing with scabies is you can be infected and it can take several weeks before you notice symptoms.”

Scabies can be cured with a lotion applied on the body and left on overnight, Tessel said.

“If a person has itching and lesions, it can persist for another week or two and then those lesions have to heal,” she said. “It may not go away overnight but that (the lotion) will eventually take care of it.”

Laursen had called her mother to ask about the skin condition at first, she said, but was relieved after housing contacted students.

“More and more people started talking about it,” she said. “My mom knew about it so she told me at first . the e-mail did make me feel better.”

Although there may have been some confusion about symptoms and how scabies is contracted, Tessel said those who have a concern should address it.

“Students who felt they had symptoms, we did see them,” she said. “If someone is having symptoms they should seek evaluation of those symptoms.”