CANTON - An outbreak of of a skin disease caused by body mites in three separate schools set off a scare among parents this week, but officials say they have the situation under control.

As of Tuesday, 15 total cases of the infestation had been reported among students at McNeal Elementary, Nichols Middle School and Canton High.

"I do want to try to caution everyone to calm down a little bit," Superintendent Ike Haynes said in a Wednesday interview. "We have 3,600 children in the Canton Public School District, and only 15 cases at this point."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes human scabies as an infestation of the skin by the microscopic human itch mite. The mite burrows into the upper-layer of the skin and lays its eggs.

The most common symptoms include intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash, but the CDC says those symptoms may not show until two to six weeks after the initial infestation. The mites spread through direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has been infected.

The Federal Drug Administration has not approved any over-the-counter treatment for scabies, but remedies are available with a doctor's prescription. Also, bedding, clothing and towels used by infested persons, or those in their household, must be disinfected.

Work crews worked to do just that Tuesday and Wednesday, scrubbing down surfaces in all school sites throughout the district.

"I want to reassure parents and students that crews have worked diligently to thoroughly deep-clean and disinfect all schools, school cafeterias and school buses to prevent any additional cases of scabies," Haynes said in a release.

"We are asking parents to continue to monitor their children and if they develop any symptoms, please seek medical attention and keep school officials informed."