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Parnall Correctional Facility in Michigan Copes with Scabies Outbreak

MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said one prisoner was diagnosed December 4, 2020 with scabies, although skin scrapings came back negative. About seven weeks later, the prison had several suspected cases. On January 22, one entire housing unit was declared to have an outbreak and by the following week the entire prison was determined to be infected.

Scabies are microscopic mites that burrow into a person’s flesh and lay eggs creating an intense, itchy rash. They are spread by skin-to-skin contact and the sharing of clothing, towels, and bedding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Crowded places such as prisons are susceptible to extreme infestations. In 2019, the MDOC declared an institution-wide outbreak at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility after more than 200 women were diagnosed with scabies. They had been complaining of an intense rash for more than a year before the outbreak was finally declared.

Parnall prisoners said medical staff had repeatedly ignored their complaints. They were told at first that it was simply a routine rash. When more prisoners bean complaining of the same symptoms, medical staff said it was skin irritation from the water, and then blamed the laundry detergent. Prisoners stated they were constantly being misguided when it was apparent that this was not the case.

PCF insisted the problem was an environmental issue — water, air, laundry or sanitation. On December 9, 2020 assessments showed the rashes were not an environmental issue.

By January, the rashes had not improved and the matter was referred to PCF’s chief medical director. More evaluations were performed. Finally, scabies was identified as the cause on January 22.

Medication was ordered to treat all 1,286 prisoners. They packed up most of their personal belongings, except for a few select items, into plastic bags. Items they were allowed to keep, such as religious effects, radios, televisions, and medications, required specific cleaning. The rest were sealed and kept in a locker for a period of quarantine. 


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