There is an outbreak of scabies in the Sunyani Central Prisons as a sizeable number of inmates have been infected with the disease, especially around their genitals and the anus area.
Authorities are very much aware but they appear helpless as they just do not have the required financial and material resources to deal with the deadly skin disease head-on; thereby leaving the inmates to their fate as the disease keeps spreading like wildfire.
This came to light when management and staff of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Hospital in Sunyani undertook a free medical screening exercise for inmates and staff of the Sunyani Central Prisons last week.
Scabies is not an infection, but an infestation. Tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei set up shop in the outer layers of human skin. The skin does not take kindly to the invasion. As the mites burrow and lay eggs inside the skin, the infestation leads to relentless itching and an angry rash.
When the skin reacts to the mite, an extremely itchy rash develops. This mite can travel from the infected person to another person. Most people get scabies from direct, skin-to-skin contact. Less often, people pick up mites from infested items such as bedding, clothes, and furniture.
Scabies will not usually disappear by itself, so it requires treatment. If it's left untreated, the constant scratching may lead to eczema or other kinds of chronic skin diseases.
Over 300 inmates and about a hundred staff were screened during the exercise, which lasted for two days.
Head of the Outreach programme, Caleb Osei, in an interview attributed the surge in scabies among the inmates to over-crowding and the lack of fresh air; and described the situation as very worrying.
Mr. Osei, who also an Emergency Nurse, said the SDA Hospital in Sunyani decided to undertake the exercise to, among others, identify inmates with hidden medical conditions and offer assistance where necessary and also advise them about how to lead healthy lifestyles, especially with regards to their diet.
He disclosed that other medical challenges that were identified as being common among the inmates were urinary tract infections (UTI), eye problems and hypertension; adding that almost all the inmates who were screened were under-weight – a situation caused by either because they are not eating well or they are not consuming a balanced diet.
The Public Relations Officer of the Sunyani Prisons, ASP Johann Nartey for his part described the outbreak of scabies and other communicable diseases among the inmates as “very serious” and called on government, corporate bodies, religious organizations and the general public to come to their aid.
He said even though it is the responsibility of the state to fully cater for the needs of the inmates, others are also welcome to offer financial and material support to the inmates since governments’ contributions are most often woefully inadequate.
He said even though the Sunyani Central Prisons is expected to accommodate 450 inmates, it currently has about 858 prisoners, a situation which contributes to the spread of contagious diseases and over-stretches their limited resources.
ASP Johann Nartey was grateful to the SDA Hospital for the gesture, describing it as “timely and in the right direction.’
The free medical screening was made possible by two medical doctors, 20 nurses, three nutrition officers, one ENT specialist, one health educator, the chaplain of the hospital, Pastor J.A Boateng and others.
Meanwhile, the Men’s Ministry of the Penkwase SDA Church in Sunyani has pledged to provide funds to procure medical supplies to effectively deal with the scabies infestation among the inmates.