Thursday, March 21, 2019

El Paso County jail finds scabies and hepatitis A cases

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 12:53 PM

click to enlarge This is a "medically accurate rendering" of a scabie. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • This is a "medically accurate rendering" of a scabie.

Here's another reason to avoid the county jail: Disease and infestations.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Department of Public Health are cooperating to deal with at least one case of scabies, and one case of hepatitis A in the Criminal Justice Center, officials confirmed.

It's the latest unsavory tale involving CJC, which has been the site of several inmate deaths, attacks on deputies and a riot over jail food in recent years. CJC also has reached capacity several times over the last year.

According to WebMD.com: "Tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei set up shop in the outer layers of human skin ... As the mites burrow and lay eggs inside the skin, the infestation leads to relentless itching and an angry rash." They can spread to others via prolonged, skin-to-skin contact and through shared items such as bedding or towels.

Hepatitis A, the Mayo Clinic says, is "a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus," which is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect the liver's functionality. The disease is contracted from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that's infected. "Mild cases of hepatitis A don't require treatment," the Mayo Clinic says. "Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage."

A source who spoke to the Indy on condition of anonymity says multiple cases of scabies have erupted in the jail. The source, who had knowledge of the situation, also said staff are concerned about exposure and wonder if cursory steps are adequate to protect them and others.

But Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby called such cases of both maladies "rare."

"There has not been an outbreak of scabies," she says via email. "We have one confirmed case."

She also says only one case of hepatitis A has been confirmed, adding:
The inmates have received the appropriate treatment and are housed appropriately. The Sheriff’s Office is working closely with Public Health to investigate any close contacts who may have been exposed to this case and provide vaccination to these individuals. This includes other inmates and staff at the jail. Public Health has also been working with the jail since December to vaccinate individuals for hepatitis A during the intake process.
click to enlarge The Criminal Justice Center has had its share of problems. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • The Criminal Justice Center has had its share of problems.
Kirby didn't elaborate on what steps have been taken, but the unnamed source tells the Indy that while one ward was cleaned with disinfectant to guard against the spread of hepatitis A, staffers continue to worry about exposure. That's in part because they have not been told which inmate or inmates are infected. "Isn’t that something we should know?" the source says.

The Department of Public Health reports it's working with the Sheriff's Office to "investigate any close contacts who may have been exposed to this case and provide vaccination to these individuals. This includes other inmates and staff at the jail."

Noting that the case is part of a "larger outbreak" of 18 cases of hepatitis A within the region since last October, El Paso County Public Health spokesperson Danielle Oller says in an email, "Public Health has also been working with the jail since December to vaccinate individuals for hepatitis A during the intake process."

While  the source of the current hepatitis A outbreak hasn't been nailed down, Oller says, "The majority of cases in El Paso County have several risk factors for hepatitis A in common including homelessness and the use of street drugs. Other high risk factors for hepatitis A infection include living with someone who has hepatitis A and traveling to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A."

As for scabies, it's not a reportable to health officials, unless there is an outbreak. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases, Oller says. "Although scabies is a nuisance, it does not spread disease," she says. "In the event of an outbreak, Public Health would provide guidance on control measures."

Oller noted there have been no outbreaks locally of scabies in 2018 and 2019.

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