Anger as scabies outbreak at college salon kept quiet

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HEALTH chiefs have come under fire after failing to tell beauty treatment clients they had potentially been exposed to scabies at a college salon.

An outbreak of the skin disease among beauty therapy students was reported at the former Telford College, leading to health protection teams being called in.

The nine beauticians-in-training diagnosed with scabies as well as the 35 others on the course were given medical treatment and people with whom they live.

But members of the public who had been customers at the salon were not contacted – despite potentially coming in to contact with the scabies carriers and being passed the microscopic scabies mite, which burrows into skin and lays eggs.

NHS Lothian said that a detailed risk assessment had been carried out and that the salon users had been at “low risk” of being infected.

But MSP and Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said warning them of the danger was the “very least they could have expected”.

He said: “Having arrangements where students can carry out treatments on members of the public for a discounted rate is of benefit to everyone. But there also has to be a level of trust. Members of the public appreciate they are being worked on by students and, as such, there may be a more variable outcome in terms of the treatment.

“However, they do not expect to be exposed to disease, and the very least they could have expected was a call from the college to warn them.”

The January outbreak only came to light in a recent NHS Lothian report, which said no salon clients had complained they had been infected.

Dr Janet Stevenson, a consultant in public health at NHS Lothian said: “This small outbreak was managed efficiently and effectively. A detailed risk assessment was carried out by our health protection team and the members of the public who had been in contact with the students were identified as being at low risk.

“The students and their family members identified as high risk were informed about the outbreak and the appropriate treatment and control measures were taken.”

A spokesperson for Telford, now known as Edinburgh College, said: “An isolated outbreak of scabies occurred among a very small number of students, and was quickly and effectively dealt with. No members of the public were affected.

“As a further precaution, we reviewed existing procedures and teaching materials to provide enhanced awareness to students. We are pleased to report that there have been no further incidents of this 
nature.”