Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 | 6:35 p.m.
Several students at a northern valley elementary school have been diagnosed with scabies, Clark County School District officials confirmed Wednesday.
A school nurse at Lomie Heard Elementary School — located on Nellis Air Force Base — sent a number of students home on Tuesday after they exhibited symptoms of scabies, a parasitic infestation of the skin.
Scabies is caused by the human itch mite, a microscopic parasite that burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it feeds on blood and lays its eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like head lice, scabies is easily transmitted via close contact, and is common in crowded places such as prisons and nursing homes.
School officials are urging Heard parents to monitor their children for symptoms of scabies, which include itching, elongated bite marks and a pimple-like red skin rash. Affected students were sent home to be treated by a doctor and will not return to school until medical release is granted.
School and Nellis officials are still investigating how the scabies outbreak occurred. It may be difficult to find out, officials said.
Over the next week, Heard employees are sanitizing all the classrooms and offices, wiping down all surfaces with a germicidal detergent and vacuuming the floors, said Diana Taylor, the School District's director of health services.
Heard is not currently planning to use pesticides, but parents are requested to alert the school office at 799-4920 if their children have a sensitivity or allergy to pesticides. That's in case the scabies problem persists, school officials said.
The School District has dealt with isolated incidents with head lice in the past, cleaning affected classrooms, Taylor said. However, this is the first time in Taylor's 25-year career that a scabies outbreak has caused an entire school to be sanitized, she said.
The Southern Nevada Health District does not keep records of head lice and scabies in schools, but School District officials have alerted the Health District's epidemiology office about the scabies outbreak at Heard, Taylor said.
On Wednesday, the School District sent additional school nurses to Heard, located at 42 Baer Drive. Nellis also sent officials to the school to educate parents about what to look for and how to treat scabies.
Parents are urged to machine wash and dry their children's clothes on high heat and zip-lock anything that cannot be washed easily — such as a stuffed animals — in a plastic bag for seven days. Human itch mites will die without feeding after two or three days, Taylor said.
Affected children should not be treated with head lice medication. Parents should take affected students to a doctor for official diagnosis and use special scabies medication, Taylor said.
Classes will continue as usual and parents of unaffected children are encouraged to keep sending them to school. As an additional precaution to the nightly sanitation, the school is rescheduling its open house to Thursday, Sept. 20.