Woman acquires impetigo in "unclean" quarantine hotel

By Amy Sarcevic
Monday, 10 August, 2020

Woman acquires impetigo in "unclean" quarantine hotel

A woman in her 30s claims to have acquired impetigo, a contagious skin infection, during her stay at a quarantine hotel in Sydney, due to the lack of cleanliness at the facilities.

Rachel Jones* underwent the mandatory two week-stay after returning from the USA last month, developing symptoms of the infection on around day five. She said the hotel room was so unclean that she and her partner used their old towels to scoop up floor dirt, like hair and skin cells.

Along with other residents at the hotel, the couple were denied vacuum cleaners due to the potential for COVID-19 contamination. Dishwashing liquid and laundry services were only available as optional paid extras.

“We really felt quite disgusting by the end of our stay,” said Rachel. “It was bad enough being robbed of direct sunlight, the health-conscious diets we would normally choose to eat  and the ability to exercise — all whilst recovering from jet lag and dealing with the stress of our overseas move. Our immune systems were most likely vulnerable because of that.

“Couple that with the lack of cleanliness at the hotel facilities and I’m quite confident it was a breeding ground for the infection,” she added.

Impetigo, a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes red sores on the skin, typically affects children between the ages of two and six years, giving it the nickname ‘school sores’. Although largely harmless, it can be life-threatening among small or newborn babies. Episodes of acute rheumatic fever are also believed to be triggered by the infection.

Like any contagion, impetigo demands stringent hygiene practices to prevent spread.

In addition to the quarantine facilities, Rachel also said her hotel transit had lax infection control measures, with many of the staff she dealt with en route not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

“As you’d expect, medical staff were wearing face masks and gowns, but passport checkers and people providing assistance at the carousel weren’t. Nor were the staff that checked in on us during our stay,” she said.

Rachel, who has no history of impetigo, believes she would likely have fought the infection if it were not for the conditions she experienced at the facilities and expressed concern for other residents “doing it tougher”.

“My partner and I got off quite lightly,” she said. “Firstly, we had each other, which made the whole experience feel less stressful. Secondly, neither of us had a pre-existing physical or mental health condition.

“I really worried about some of our fellow residents, as many were alone, elderly or had small children with them. I don’t think I’d have coped if that were the case.”

Despite her experience, Rachel said she felt very grateful to live in a country with a mandatory and inclusive quarantine policy.

*Name has been changed for privacy

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/WITTAYA

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