BRUNSWICK, Maine — Officials quickly contained a parasite outbreak at a Brunswick homeless shelter, according to municipal health inspectors and officials from the Maine Center for Disease Control.
Thirteen people at Tedford Housing’s adult facility on Cumberland Street were diagnosed with scabies in mid-March. Jeff Emerson, Brunswick’s deputy fire chief and municipal health inspector, investigated the report and called the Maine Center for Disease Control in Augusta for guidance.
The outbreak occurred in an isolated area of the shelter and was treated immediately under the Maine CDC’s supervision, Emerson said.
Scabies are tiny mites that burrow directly under the skin and commonly cause itching and a red, inflamed rash.
State epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears said that while a scabies infection is itchy and unpleasant, “it’s not a serious illness, and it’s not a [state-required] reportable condition.”
“It’s very common in day cares and nursing homes, and it’s got nothing to do with hygiene,” Sears said.
The outbreak first was reported March 20 to the state Department of Health and Human Services by Tedford Housing Executive Director Craig Phillips.
No subsequent cases have been found beyond the original 13 diagnoses.
“We came up with some protocols and insisted that every guest and employee go to a physician and get checked, and Tedford paid for the office visits for those people who couldn’t afford it,” Phillips said.
“We’ve been talking weekly with the Portland office of the Maine CDC, and monitoring staff and guests through the [mites’] four- to six-week gestation period,” he said. “We’re keeping on top of it.”