Treatment for residents after infection

RICHARD BATSON Residents and staff at a north Norfolk nursing home will today begin a course of treatment after a skin infection case was confirmed there.

RICHARD BATSON

Residents and staff at a north Norfolk nursing home will today begin a course of treatment after a skin infection case was confirmed there.

The outbreak of scabies means 26 residents and 53 staff at the Suncourt home at Sheringham - and even their close families - will have to smear their whole bodies with cream.

Home boss Tim Leadbeater, who is also a leading light in the nursing home industry nationally, stressed the outbreak was not down to any poor hygiene.

Only one case had been confirmed, after a resident with a skin rash dating back to December was checked out by a specialist.

It is an itchy condition caused by a mite which burrows into the skin especially around the hands, feet and male genitalia. Scabies is contagious but only through close and prolonged skin contact such as holding hands.

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Treatment involves covering the body with cream for 12 hours, which will be done simultaneously by those affected - and people who have had close contact with them - today and next Monday.

The spouse of one care worker, who did not want to be identified, was concerned it was the second outbreak of scabies at the home since 2005.

Mr Leadbeater said: "It is a major operation, and it means the husbands, wives, partners and children of staff will also have to do it.

"But if anyone needs to pay for a prescription we have agreed to reimburse the costs."

He confirmed there had also been an outbreak of scabies at the home two years ago, but it was only the second in the 21 years he had been running Suncourt, in Morris Street, with wife Jan.

"We have had guidance from the Norfolk Health Protection Unit, and their advice leaflets make it clear it is nothing to do with poor hygiene. It is not uncommon, and it could have come in through a resident, visitor or member of staff.

It would not affect routine activities at the home, with care and social activities carrying on as normal.

"Some people have reacted saying it is 'horrible' - but it is not the plague, and we are dealing with it in a very pragmatic and businesslike way," said Mr Leadbeater, who is chairman of the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire branch of the Registered Nursing Home Association and a member of its national management committee.

A spokesman for Norfolk Primary Care Trust said scabies was not a notifiable disease so individual statistics were not available, but the number of outbreaks - in communities such as schools and care homes - ranged between 11 and 18 a year.