Hundreds of college students and lecturers have been sent home because of a suspected outbreak of scabies.

Members of the public have expressed concern that infected hair and beauty students at City College Brighton and Hove could pass the mites, which burrow under the skin, on to customers they are giving treatments to.

The college confirmed a “small number” of students and staff had been suffering from skin irritations and rashes thought to be scabies, and urged anyone showing symptoms to seek immediate medical advice.

City College said the first confirmed case was reported to them on December 4. Practical sessions were stopped on December 5 and after seven cases were reported, the decision to close the beauty department was taken on December 10.

On December 14, after a reported case in the hairdressing department, students were advised to stop all treatments and warn their clients.

Health Protection Agency guidance says the infection takes four to six weeks to become symptomatic – during which time the mites can still be spread through skin to skin and sexual contact.

'Isolated incidents'

A spokeswoman for the HPA said they were aware of the outbreak amongst staff and students, but as scabies is not a notifiable disease, they would not be aware if it had spread into the wider community.

In a statement, City College said: “Although these are currently isolated incidents, the health of students, staff and visitors remain the college’s highest priority, and we have taken further advice from the Health Protection Agency and occupational health in order to contain it.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the college’s first occurrence of the infection and we have no way of knowing how it entered the college.”

The entire hair and beauty department - made up of more than 20 courses and hundreds of students - will be closed until January 8.

City College assistant principal Rebecca Conroy added: “We are all disappointed for our students as there were lots of Christmas activities that we had planned and have now rescheduled.

“However, the measures we have taken are aimed at protecting our whole community.”

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