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Communicable Diseases Links

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Scabies

This page was reviewed or revised on Friday, October 28, 2011 3:40 PM

What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin infection caused by a very small insect-like parasite called a mite.

How is it spread?

Scabies is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with a person already infected with scabies. Mites can be transferred from clothing/bedding or personal belongings that were used immediately beforehand by the infected person. Scabies is highly contagious and is not related to gender, race, socioeconomic level or personal hygiene.

What are the symptoms?

The scabies mites lay their eggs just under the skin surface. The person may have no symptoms and then they typically begin to feel an intense itchiness, which is often worse at night. Tiny burrows or a rash often accompanies the itchiness. The most common site for the rash to appear is the webs of the fingers, wrists, elbows, breasts, genitals, abdomen, back and buttocks.

Secondary skin infections can occur from scratching the infected areas.

When do the symptoms begin?

Symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to begin for a person who has never been infected. If a person has had scabies in the past, symptoms appear within several days. You do not become immune to scabies.

How long do mites live?

Mites need the human body to survive, once they are away from the human body, mites do not survive more than 48-72 hours. When living on a person, an adult female mite can live up to a month.

Treatment/Prevention

Contact your physician for specific treatment. There are many different creams/lotions that can be obtained through pharmacies.

Exclude from daycare/school/work until 24 hours after the start of effective treatment. All clothing, bedding, and personal belongings, such as towels used by the infected person within the last 48-72 hours, should be laundered on the hot cycle of the washer and dryer. For any items that can not be laundered place in a plastic bag for a week. It is not necessary to disinfect items such as mattresses and furniture. Following treatment, itching may persist for a few weeks. Rash may take a few weeks to fade.

Who should be treated?

Anyone who is diagnosed with scabies as well as anyone who has had close, prolonged contact with the infected person should be treated.

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