Scabies soars in Antwerp, drugs hard to find

Pharmacies in Antwerp have virtually run out of medicines to combat scabies.  Cases of the highly contagious skin disease are soaring in the northern port city. 

While cases of scabies, caused by the scab mite, are sharply up in Antwerp local pharmacies are struggling to source tablets and ointments.  The Institute of Tropical Medicine, the ITM, does still possess stocks of ivermectine that is used against various parasites.

“There are international sourcing problems with regard to medicines to combat scabies.  Problems are fewer than last year, but customers are easily ending up on week-long waiting lists at pharmacies” says the ITM’s Steven Van Den Broucke. “We still have a reasonable stock.  The drug is available to patients at our counter”., the federal medicines’ agency website that lists the availability of medicines, does not identity a problem in Belgium stating the drug has been available here since 28 April.

Dr Van Den Broucke says there is no reason for people to be ashamed they are suffering from this disease: “Everybody can get it.  It occurs among all layers of the population.  It’s not linked to hygiene.  Close contact to an infected person is sufficient.  You increase your risk if you live with others at close quarters and don’t often wash your clothes.”

Scientists at the ITM can’t identify a clear cause for the recent surge in cases in Belgium. “It’s worth an investigation” says Van Den Broucke.  “There are higher numbers of cases among students who live in digs and it’s also doing the rounds at asylum centres”.

Top stories