By Kim Heinz and Myriam Dijck
Kingston students have been warned of a possible scabies outbreak after a number of students have been treated for the highly contagious skin infection.
The university confirmed that there have been nine students treated for scabies at the Fairhill Medical Practice during the past six weeks.
“I found out what it was because I scratched open one of the tiny blisters on my hands and a little white spot came out and it literally just started walking on my finger,” said a third-year Kingston student who caught scabies just before the summer holidays. “At that point it had gotten really bad and I would wake up with my entire body covered in a rash.”
Scabies is a contagious skin disorder widely spread in the general population.
It is caused by the scabies mite and is transferred when there is close skin-to-skin contact for a long period of time with another person who has the disease.
“During the summer I was just really scared my friends or family would catch it, but I was also embarrassed to tell my friends about it. I was scared to hug my friends, touch them or borrow their clothes,” said the student, who wishes to remain anonymous.
At first she only experienced slight itching but it got worse as the disease progressed. However, she is still unsure how she caught it.
“My whole back would be covered by a red rash after I showered, even if the water wasn’t that hot. I would be lying awake in bed for hours, not able to sleep because my whole body was itching like crazy,” the student said.
“It’s absolutely horrible,” she said. “It’s your whole body that is itching and there is just nothing you can do about it. I tried not to scratch but even then I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I would just scratch my skin until it hurt, but then it would itch somewhere else on my body.”
Rash and severe itching
The symptoms, a rash and severe itching, could take between two to six weeks to appear. Coral Brazier, the university health adviser, urged students to visit their GP if they were concerned.
Ms Brazier said: “It is very simple to treat using an insecticide lotion. People are very unlikely to catch scabies from towels or bedding, unless they are used immediately after someone with scabies.”
The student’s GP prescribed a lotion to put on her entire body. During the treatment, she also had to wash all her clothes at 60 degrees to kill any bugs, as the scabies mite can stay alive in clothing for several days.
“I must have had about five or six treatments before I finally got rid of it. I’m still scared it might come back,” she said.
Ms Brazier said that this is no reason to fear a scabies outbreak yet, but wants Kingston students to be aware of the symptoms.
For more information, please go to the website patient.co.uk or visit the health centre at Penrhyn Road.