4 VTA drivers infected with scabies; a dozen buses moved into quarantine

Valley Transportation Authority officials say there is no risk of infection to the riding public. This, after four of its drivers became infected with scabies – a small bug that burrows under the skin causing an itchy rash. 

VTA workers moved a dozen buses into quarantine Friday at the authority’s north yard in Mountain View.

“VTA has hired an exterminator to conduct extra cleaning of the buses. This is an added measure of precaution. To make sure our employees and the public has no reason to worry,” said Brandi Childress, a VTA spokeswoman.

Scabies is a small bug or mite that burrows into the skin. Once there, it causes a rash spreading from the fingers. Some passengers are fearful now that equipment used in their only method of transportation is now quarantined for exposure.

“It’s scary. But I have no (other) option. Because I only have VTA,” said bus passenger Sherajum Monira.

A scabies infection is generally treated with a topical antibiotic, and officials with Santa Clara County Vector Control say infection comes from closer, personal contact. Not from riding or touching a bus.

“It’s generally unlikely to get it from, let’s say, shaking hands, or a hug or something like that. Sitting on seats, it’s unlikely as well,” said Dr. Noor Tietze of the Santa Clara County Vector Control District.

VTA officials say they’ll have all 130 buses stationed at their north yard cleaned over the weekend. They’ll vacuum the seats, and wipe down hard surfaces with bleach.

“We do take the maintenance and cleanliness of our buses seriously,” said Childress.

The 12 impacted buses operate on four lines – the 22 and 522 from San Jose to Palo Alto, and the 55 and 88 which operate in the northern part of the county.

One driver told KTVU he and others are concerned more workers could show symptoms in the coming days.

“I was kind of worried, yeah, particularly that we could bring this home to our families,” he said.

VTA officials say they’ve distributed information and protocols to approximately 1,600 bus drivers, as they work to determine how four became infected with scabies.