Kids had scabies, lice in 'worst neglect'

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2013

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Police have treated themselves for scabies after hospital tests found children at the centre of a serious neglect case had the contagious skin infection.

The three officers also had to rid themselves of head lice after the insects were seen "jumping on the kids" found living in dire conditions at a home in the Hutt Valley, police said.

The area's family violence co-ordinator, Detective Sergeant Emma Foote, yesterday described it as the worst case of child neglect she had seen.

Four children aged under 5 were treated in hospital for what police initially believed was eczema but which tests later revealed to be scabies. A 2-year-old girl was given antibiotics via a drip because of the extent of the infection. "It was the worst thing I've ever seen on a child," Ms Foote said.

"It affected a lot of the staff because of how bad it was."

Police found nine children at the Hutt Valley home after they were called by residents concerned about their safety on January 4. The cupboards contained little food and four of the children who lived there had been sleeping on a mattress in the lounge.

Police said they were malnourished and suffering from poor hygiene.

The children have since been discharged from hospital into Child, Youth and Family care, and police working on the investigation were advised to seek treatment.

The Ministry of Health website describes scabies as a skin infection caused by mites that burrow under the skin, causing a very itchy rash. It is spread by skin contact, and by sharing clothing and bedding.

Ms Foote said the officers had to douse themselves with lotion provided by a pharmacist and sleep with it on overnight.

None of them had shown any symptoms of scabies.

"[The staff] were more worried about the kids [than themselves] and how awful it would have been to have it for that long without it being treated."

The parents of four children found at the home have been charged with neglect.

Police said more people could yet face charges.

The parents, aged 22 and 25, who have name suppression, were granted bail during a brief appearance last week.

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