In Malawi, health authorities say an outbreak of scabies around the commercial capital of Blantyre has affected more than 300 people. Scabies is a contagious, intensely itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.
“We started seeing cases from June and we have seen that the cases have been increasing such that by the end of September we had seen 255 cases. But as I am talking now, as of October, the number has risen to 309 cases,” says Chrissy Banda, the spokesperson for Blantyre District Health Office.
Residents of Blantyre like Matilda Lamba say the outbreak is concerning, especially with records indicating that it is more prevalent in rural areas.
“Those people from villages they come in town. You know we buy things from then like agriculture commodities, we interact with them daily and right at the moment we are very afraid that we might catch the scabies,” she notes.
But Banda says people should not panic, saying efforts are under way to stop the outbreak. “In our facilities the treatment is there. We have a lot of scabicides; the treatment for scabies. So first thing, we identify the cases, and then we are treating the cases to make sure that we block the transmission.”
The scabies outbreak comes at a time when Malawi is starting to recover from COVID-19, currently registering low infection and death rates.
George Jobe, executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network says although the scabies outbreak is scary, the good news is that its preventive measures are similar to those that prevent COVID-19, like hand washing and observing social distancing.
In the meantime, the ministry of health is advising institutions that deal with large groups to watch for cases of the skin condition and report suspected cases to health authorities.