Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson has confirmed the existence of at least one case of scabies at HMP Dodds Prison in St Philip so far this year.
However, Hinkson explained that the most recent reports of an infestation of the disease among prison officers turned out instead to be a fungal skin infection which affected six inmates last month.
“In May 2019, which is probably the information that you have now received, six inmates were diagnosed as having a fungal skin infection, which, I am informed by the medical doctor, is not contagious and is not scabies,” the Minister told Barbados TODAY this morning.
He was responding to a story published in this paper on Friday which quoted an unnamed prison officer as saying there was an infestation of scabies at the prison and that the officer who transports inmates to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) contracted it from an inmate and had to be treated at the QEH.
It was also reported that a close family member of the prison officer also had to be treated.
But the Minister said management of the penal institution has not received any reports from any staff of them being infected by scabies.
He revealed though that in February this year, one inmate was diagnosed with the disease and had to be quarantined.
“In February this year, one inmate revealed signs of having suspected scabies. A doctor was notified [and] the inmate was quarantined. Inmates who shared housing quarters with that inmate were also isolated. As you would appreciate, it would be in conformity with proper protocols. They were not allowed to have visitors or attend classes or have interaction with anyone during that period,” Hinkson said.
“When he was further examined by a dermatologist, it was confirmed that he was carrying scabies,” Hinkson told Barbados TODAY.
Hinkson however stressed that right now, the prison was free of scabies.
He reported though that in October 2017, five inmates were isolated as a result of suspected case of scabies.
“Two of those inmates were confirmed by one of the medical practitioners assigned to the prison as carrying the scabies virus They were treated and remained isolated for one week. A week after that, they were reviewed and discharged back into the general population with the medication and personal hygiene instructions,” Hinkson stated.
He contended that the prison was just a microcosm of the wider Barbadian population and that there was nothing magical about the prison “at that time” having two cases of scabies.
The Minister disclosed that measures were being put in place to reduce the incidence of any fungal skin disease inside the St Philip jail.
“In an effort to reduce this fungal skin infection, which is not contagious, recurring in the prison, the management and staff have increased their sensitization programme to both staff and inmates,” Hinkson said. The programme was being conducted through oral presentations by the staff of the medical unit and by way of distribution of leaflets on the issue.
“These bacterial skin infections which would have been revealed last month among six of the inmates are mostly seen during the warm periods…and this is what we have been experiencing. You would concede [these] are mainly due to heat rashes, which is also due to poor hygiene practices…and hence the sensitization being given to the prisoners as well on this particular issue,” the Home Affairs Minister added.