Media Release: EHPs working around the clock to address the Scabies outbreak
For immediate release
22 November 2022
Scabies is a skin infection that is caused by a very tiny mite not visible to the naked eye. It can live on a person’s skin for up to two (2) months. Scabies is not a notifiable medical condition, but it must be reported to the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) Environmental Health Practitioners (EHP) and Western Cape Health Department, amongst others, to prevent the disease from spreading.
One of the key performance areas of Municipal Health Services is the surveillance and prevention of communicable diseases. In this regard, the Environmental Health Practitioner EHP has a significant role to play in bringing the Scabies infestation under control and preventing the further spread of the disease. Health education campaigns were recently rolled out in Oudtshoorn and George were cases of scabies were reported.
On Monday, 7 November 2022, educators at Saturnus Primary School in Toekomsrus, Oudtshoorn, found that 25 learners complained about symptoms of itching and rashes on their skin. Nurses from the clinic were contacted to assess the learners’ symptoms and skin conditions. The team concluded that the skin condition was caused by Scabies. The school also informed the school circuit manager of the Department of Basic Education about the situation.
On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, the number of students affected at the school increased to 201. By Friday, 11 November 2022, the outbreak of Scabies had spread to 3 more schools. By November 14, 2022, seven (7) schools in Oudtshoorn, three (3) in Dysselsdorp and one (1) in De Rust were affected. One school in the rural area also sent five (5) learners to the Oudtshoorn clinic. By the end of 14 November 2022 a total of 263 children and one adult were treated for Scabies at clinics in Oudtshoorn and Dysselsdorp respectively – the total of learners that contracted Scabies is currently still rising.
The school health nurse, local clinic operational manager and an EHP provided health education to learners, educators and parents of the learners from affected schools. The following topics were covered: the definition and identification of Scabies, symptoms, treatment, preventative measures, correct hand washing, hand hygiene and isolation of affected learners until treatment is completed. The clinics had to re-fill their stock, as children were sent to clinics where they received medication and cream to apply at night. Learners returned to school after five days. A database is used to monitor children returning to school.
The GRDM Municipal Health Services will continue with their health education about Scabies through the municipality’s various platforms and by visiting schools. They will create awareness about the disease and the precautions that must be taken to prevent further spread.
On the 15th of November 2022, EHPs were notified of confirmed Scabies cases in the area. The EHPs from the Wilderness area then targeted schools and clinics to conduct a health awareness campaign to educate communities and learners about disease. Furthermore, disinfectants and pamphlets were distributed to the public during the campaign.
The campaign further continued at the Kuyasa Clinic located in Thembalethu (Zone 9) where approximately 105 patients participated in the health education session. At Thembalethu High School, the principal together with the staff members, were given health education, pamphlets and disinfectants for distribution to the learners. The campaign concluded at Mzoxolo Primary School located in Lawaaikamp (George).
On 16 November 2022, the team of EHPs received another alert from at Mzoxolo Primary school in Lawaaikamp where parents took their children out of school due to the concern that they might contract Scabies. On their arrival at the school, the EHPs managed to calm the parents down and provided health education to them.
More awareness campaigns will be conducted in the coming days at Early Childhood Development (ECD) facilities, nursing homes and to the Greater Oudtshoorn community, with the aim to curb the spread of Scabies in the area.
Report cases of scabies to the following GRDM Municipal Health Offices at:
Johan Compion – Manager: Municipal Health & Environmental Services
Tel: 044 803 1300
Klein Karoo and Kannaland Region
Desmond Paulse – Chief: Municipal Health (Klein Karoo)
Tel: 044 272 2241 / Cell: 083 678 6530
Address: 94 St John Street, Oudtshoorn
Sam Bendle – Chief: Municipal Health (Mossel Bay),
Tel: 044 693 0006 /Cell: 083 630 6108
Address C/O Sampson & Marling Street, Ext 23, Mossel Bay.
Emmy Douglas – Chief: Municipal Health (Outeniqua)
Tel: 044 803 1501 / Cell: 078 457 2824
Address: Mission Street, Industrial Area, George, 6530
Jessica Erasmus – Acting Chief: Wilderness (George)
Tel: 044 803 1501 / Cell: 081 346 3118
Address: Mission Street, Industrial Area, George
James McCarthy – Chief: Knysna
Tel: 044 382 7214 / Cell: 082 805 9417
Address: 26A Queen Street, Knysna
Gawie Vos – Chief: Lakes (Bitou)
Tel: 044 501 1600 / Cell: 083 557 1522
Address: 7 Gibb Street, Plettenberg Bay
Haemish Herwels – Chief: Hessequa
Tel: 028 713 2438 / Cell: 083 678 6545
Address: 23 Michell Street, Riversdale, 6670