What is scabies?

Scabies happens when the itch mite infests human skin.  The itch mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin and lays its eggs. scabies

Who is at risk for scabies?

Scabies is found worldwide and can happen to anybody.  Scabies can spread in crowded conditions where there is a lot of skin-to-skin contact. Childcare facilities, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are common sites for scabies outbreaks.

What is crusted (Norwegian) scabies?

Crusted (Norwegian) scabies is a severe form of scabies that can occur in elderly, disabled, or debilitated people or in those who have weakened immune systems. People with crusted scabies have thick, crusty skin that contains many scabies and their eggs. Crusted scabies is very contagious, so people should receive aggressive medical attention to prevent spreading it to others.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

Symptoms may take as long as 6 weeks to appear. People who have had scabies before may get symptoms as early as 1-4 days.  Patients with scabies are contagious during this time.  Symptoms include:

  • Intense itching, especially at night
  • Pimple-like rash
  • Tiny blisters/scales
  • Grayish-white burrows

How is scabies transmitted?

Scabies is spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact. It cannot be spread by casual contact such as a handshake.  Scabies is usually spread through sexual contact in adults.  It can also be spread by sharing personal items, although this is rare.

How is scabies diagnosed?

Scabies is usually diagnosed through symptoms, and by identifying the rash or burrows.  Occasionally, a mite, mite egg, or mite fecal matter can be picked up using a pin and examined under a microscope. Only about 10-15 mites are usually present on an infected person who is otherwise healthy. A person with crusted scabies contains thousands of mites and is considered highly contagious. A mite can live for up to 2 months on a human body.

How is scabies treated?

A prescription scabicide is available to treat patients with a confirmed scabies diagnoses. People who are in close contact with an infected person, such as a sexual partner or household member, should also be treated. Retreatment may be necessary if itching or burrows are still present after 2-4 weeks.

How can I prevent scabies?

Avoid prolonged skin-to-skin contact with somebody who has scabies. Do not share personal items with an infected person.

For more information on scabies, click here.