A HAMPSHIRE mental health unit is at the centre of a scabies alert.

Staff and patients on one ward of Antelope House are currently being treated for scabies as a precaution after a small number of people showed signs of the highly-contagious skin condition.

In a bid to prevent any further spread of the infection, all staff and patients are being monitored and health bosses have confirmed that “all necessary” precautions are being taken.

The ward was temporarily closed to new admissions, but other parts of the unit were not affected.

Scabies is a parasitic skin infection that can cause intense itching. It is caught by skin-to-skin contact.

The cause of the infection is tiny mites, called Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrow into the skin and have an incubation period of up to eight weeks.

Outbreaks in the UK are most common during the winter months and are much more frequent in places where there are lots of people.

A spokesperson for Southern Health, which runs the unit based at the Royal South Hants, said that visitors are still being allowed onto the affected ward.

They added: “Antelope House continues to operate normally and the support and treatment service users are getting is unaffected by any precautions.”

Anyone with the condition should contact their GP immediately before passing it on to other people.