Rising scabies numbers concerns health authorities

Martin Endjala

The Ministry of Health and Social Services Kalumbi Shangula says the country has recorded an alarming number of scabies cases since January this year.

The cases have spiked since last month, which prompted the Ministry to conduct an assessment report to understand the severity of the situation.

3454 cases have been reported thus far since January, Shangula confirmed.

According to the assessment, Kunene Region reported the most cases numbering 1 418 cases followed by Ohangwena with 708, Otjonzondjupa 402, Kavango West 375, Kavango East 204, Omusati 130, Oshana 104, Omaheke 46Hardap 20, Oshikoto 20, Erongo 17 and Karas Region 10 cases.

The assessment also indicated that the affected communities are those living along the northern borders, school-going learners in the affected areas and migrant populations in urban and peri-

urban areas, where access to water and sanitation facilities is either lacking or inadequate.

The report also showed that the scabies transmission has moved from households to schools, where

water supply and personal hygiene is proving to be a challenge.

Scabies is transmitted from one person to another through close skin contact, which often occurs

among household living together with one of the persons infested.

The transmission risk increases particularly with infested individuals with crusted scabies. Infested clothes and bed linen are among those that can also lead to transmission.

Shangula cautioned that due to the asymptomatic period of infestation transmission can still occur

before the infested person develops symptoms, adding that the incubation period can be up to eight


Some of the symptoms is itching, which often intensify at night.

However, the itching is not caused directly by the scabies mite, but it is the result of a systemic allergic to the mite, its eggs, and excreta under the skin of the person. Red rash popular eruption, push-filled lesion and an abnormal growth of skin tissue are amongst other symptoms.

Overcrowded areas such as households, schools, hostels, work places and other places are one of the factors leading to the fast spread of scabies. Poor hygiene practices, lack of sanitation facilities as well as living with a household with scabies and a sexual partner are amongst others.

Scabies is not sexually transmitted, but it is the close coming in contact of sexual

partner’s skins that leads to the transmission, Shangula clarified.

The public is urged to observe health preventative measures to mitigate the situation and avoid further spreading. The minister has emphasized practicing good hygiene and the washing of hands at all times and sanitation.

Investigations are being carried out to further establish the magnitude of the condition in the affected regions.


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