A UNIVERSITY accommodation block has been hit by an outbreak of scabies.

It is believed that five students at Warsash Maritime Academy have been confirmed to have contracted the skin infection, which leaves victims with an itchy rash.

The academy, part of Southampton Solent University, is home to around 240 students with more than 1,000 more coming onto the campus each day.

Out of the three accommodation blocks - Shackleton, Blyth and Hamblemead - Shackleton, which houses about 140 students, is said to have been the worst affected.

The college is one of the top institutions in the country for education, training, consultancy and research into the international shipping and off-shore oil industries.

Many of the students have now returned to their home towns for a two-week Easter break sparking fears that the disease could be spread far and wide. One student, who asked not to be named, said: "So far five people have been diagnosed with scabies, but who knows how many more are carrying it.

"Everyone is in close contact with everyone else here so it could have spread.

"We broke up on Friday and everyone goes back home.

"We're all really concerned about the infection. I hate to think how far the infection could be spread." David Purdue, accommodation manager at Warsash Maritime Academy, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Southampton Solent University said notices have been put up in the accommodation blocks at Warsash to make sure students were aware of the situation and to advise them of possible symptoms, and when to seek advice from a GP.

"We are currently aware of five confirmed cases of scabies at Warsash," she said.

"We are liaising closely with the Health Protection Agency regarding advice and treatment.

"Students are being informed as a precaution. As always, the health and safety of our students is paramount."