Scabies case suspends visits at Iqaluit’s jail
Mite-caused skin infestation detected July 8 at Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility
Iqaluit’s Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility is not allowing visitors in the building after a single case of scabies — a common skin infestation caused by small insects called mites — was detected.
The jail, which houses inmates in medium and maximum security, implemented the restrictions after the case was discovered Saturday.
“This precautionary measure was taken in response to the confirmation of a scabies case in one of the clients,” Peter Varga, a Nunavut Justice Department spokesperson, said in an email.
Varga said alternative arrangements, including video visits, are being made. There was only one case of scabies discovered, and the restrictions apply only to Aaqqigiarvik.
The jail’s staff and health-care workers are working to address the situation, he said.
Restrictions on visits will be updated “as the situation requires,” Varga added.
Scabies usually appears as a very itchy and unpleasant rash on any part of the body as mites dig into the skin, according to a Nunavut Health Department fact sheet.
The mites, which can live on skin for three days, spread from short skin-to-skin contact such as handshakes and hugs, or by sticking to clothing.
Scabies requires a prescribed lotion as a treatment, and the itchiness may last for weeks.
The Health Department recommends doing laundry at high heat to kill any potential mites on clothing.
Scabies impacts 300 million people worldwide annually, but it is more prevalent in Indigenous communities, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society.
This is the first time Aaqqigiarvik, a 112-bed facility that opened in 2021, has had to close its doors to visitors this year.
Varga explained the facility may close its doors in certain situations, such as to prevent the spread of disease or if a major security incident requiring a lockdown unfolds.
He said the suspension will be in place until the scabies situation is under control, but likely won’t last more than a week.