There have been dozens of cases of a contagious parasite in Bolton’s care homes over the last three years, newly released data shows.

In data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 11 outbreaks of scabies in Bolton’s care homes have been detected since 2021, causing 55 suspected cases of the disease across nine homes.

A total of 12 cases were detected in three outbreaks in 2021, with 19 detected in 2022 in another three outbreaks.

In 2023, four outbreaks of the parasite led to 15 cases, while nine cases were recorded in one home in March of this year.

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In neighbouring Bury, a total of 97 suspected or confirmed cases have been detected in the borough’s care homes across the same time period, while Wigan had 29 cases.

Oldham had 178 confirmed or suspected cases, with neighbouring Rochdale at 29 and Tameside at 42.

Manchester’s care homes experienced 76 cases among residents and staff members, while Trafford experienced just two, in February of this year. Stockport experienced 43.

Salford did not provide a response.

NHS working with council to tackle outbreaks

Tyrone Roberts, chief nursing officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Scabies can easily spread, particularly in settings such as care homes, which is why we work closely with our local partners to manage any outbreaks. This includes delivering treatment, in a timely manner, to effectively break the cycle of infection and transmission.

“It can be difficult to diagnose scabies because the signs aren’t always obvious, but we encourage people to look out for general itching, a rash, and signs of burrowing, particularly in between fingers.

“Infection prevention and health protection teams from our trust and Bolton Council regularly work with care homes to raise awareness of transmissible infections, such as scabies, to help prevent outbreaks or catch them at the earliest opportunity.”

A Bolton Council spokesperson said: “The public health team works closely with all our care homes to reduce the spread of infections.

“It is important that scabies is diagnosed and properly treated to avoid further spread, in particular in our most vulnerable residents.

“Our locality community infection prevention and control team has been training care home staff in how to identify, apply treatment, and prevent further spread.”

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What is scabies?

Scabies is an itchy skin rash caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei.

According to academics, the link between the mite and the itch was discovered in 1687, representing the first time the cause of a human disease had been established.

The NHS says scabies is common and anyone can get it. Symptoms include intense itching, especially at night, and a raised rash or spots.

The rash usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head – though older people, young children, and those with a weakened immune system may develop a rash on their head and neck.

It can take up to eight weeks for the rash to appear after infestation.

Those infested, and other household members, need to apply a special cream or lotion over their whole body, which is repeated one week later.

Bedding and clothing also needs to be washed at least 50°C on the first day of treatment, with anything that cannot be washed placed into a sealed bag for three days.

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