Impetigo and scabies are endemic diseases in many tropical countries; however the epidemiology of these diseases is poorly understood in many areas, particularly in the Pacific.
We conducted three epidemiological studies in 2006 and 2007 to determine the burden of disease due to impetigo and scabies in children in Fiji using simple and easily reproducible methodology. Two studies were performed in primary school children (one study was a cross-sectional study and the other a prospective cohort study over ten months) and one study was performed in infants (cross-sectional). The prevalence of active impetigo was 25.6% (95% CI 24.1–27.1) in primary school children and 12.2% (95% CI 9.3–15.6) in infants. The prevalence of scabies was 18.5% (95% CI 17.2–19.8) in primary school children and 14.0% (95% CI 10.8–17.2) in infants. The incidence density of active impetigo, group A streptococcal (GAS) impetigo, Staphylococcus aureus impetigo and scabies was 122, 80, 64 and 51 cases per 100 child-years respectively. Impetigo was strongly associated with scabies infestation (odds ratio, OR, 2.4, 95% CI 1.6–3.7) and was more common in Indigenous Fijian children when compared with children of other ethnicities (OR 3.6, 95% CI 2.7–4.7). The majority of cases of active impetigo in the children in our study were caused by GAS. S. aureus was also a common cause (57.4% in school aged children and 69% in infants).
These data suggest that the impetigo and scabies disease burden in children in Fiji has been underestimated, and possibly other tropical developing countries in the Pacific. These diseases are more than benign nuisance diseases and consideration needs to be given to expanded public health initiatives to improve their control.
Scabies and impetigo are often thought of as nuisance diseases, but have the potential to cause a great deal of morbidity and even mortality if infection becomes complicated. Accurate assessments of these diseases are lacking, particularly in tropical developing countries. We performed a series of studies in infants and primary school children in Fiji, a tropical developing country in the South Pacific. Impetigo was very common: more than a quarter of school-aged children and 12% of infants had active impetigo. Scabies was also very common affecting 18% of school children and 14% of infants. The group A streptococcus was the most common infective organism followed by Staphylococcus aureus. The size of the problem has been underestimated, particularly in the Pacific. It is time for more concerted public health efforts in controlling impetigo and scabies.