Health Caution

Official reports increased cases of scabies, ringworm

BY CLAUDIENNE EDWARDS
Observer writer
edwardsc@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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The health ministry is planning an education campaign to stem what it said is an increase in the spread of scabies and tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) islandwide.

Dr Susan Strachan Johnson, medical officer at the Kingston and St Andrew (KSA) Health Department, made the revelation in a report to yesterday's meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) Parish Disaster Preparedness and Public Health Committee.

The report stated that the scabies and ringworm cases so far this year “have been above the trend for 2017”. However, the report did not state the number of cases of ringworm for the period January to March 2017 or for the comparative period in 2018.

After the meeting, Dr Strachan Johnson told the Jamaica Observer that the ministry was in the process of identifying the main areas in which there are outbreaks of the diseases.

“Once the areas are identified, medical personnel will go to the schools to educate the teachers and parents as to what to do,” Dr Strachan Johnson said in reply to a question asked by Councillor Kari Douglas (PNP, Trafalgar Park Division) about the strategy to be employed to educate the public about the diseases.

Councillor Neville Wright (PNP, Trench Town Division) questioned whether lack of water at some barber and hairdressing establishments could be one of the reasons for the spread of ringworm.

However, Councillor Beverly Prince, vice-chairman of the committee, pointed out that when barbers and hairdressers apply for licences, public health inspectors do a thorough check of the premises from which they intend to operate.

The report stated that ringworm of the scalp is a fungal infection of the scalp and hair shafts. It is caused by one of several varieties of mould-like fungi called dermatophytes. Ringworm isn't caused by a worm. The common name for the disorder refers to the ring-like or circular appearance of the infection on the skin.

The report also pointed out that ringworm is very contagious and can be spread:

* through human-to-human or direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person;

* through contact with objects or surfaces that an infected person or animal has touched, such as clothing, towels, combs, or brushes;

* from animals to humans through dogs, especially puppies, cats and kittens that are often carriers. Other animals that are carriers of ringworm include cows, goats, and pigs.

The report also pointed out that the fungi that causes ringworm of the scalp can also cause other infections on the body.

Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis) causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of the skin.

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is a form of ringworm which affects the moist areas between the toes and sometimes on the foot itself.

Jock itch (tinea cruris) is a form of ringworm that affects genitals, inner upper thighs and buttocks, the report stated.

Scabies is an infestation caused by tiny mites, called Sarcoptes scabiei, which settle in the outer layers of human skin, then burrows and lays eggs inside the skin.

It leads to relentless itching and an angry rash.

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