What is Scabies?

Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite. Scabies is found worldwide and affects people of all races and social classes. Crusted (Norwegian) scabies is a severe form of scabies. Crusted scabies can occur in some persons who are:
  • Immunocompromised (have a weak immune system), 
  • Elderly
  • Disabled 
  • Debilitated

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of scabies are:
  • Intense itching
  • Pimple-like skin rash
Persons with crusted scabies may not show the usual signs and symptoms of scabies such as the characteristic rash or itching. Symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to begin. An infected person can still spread scabies without symptoms.

How is it spread?

Scabies can spread by direct skin-to skin contact with a person who has scabies. In crowded conditions, scabies can spread rapidly. The following institutions, where close body and skin contact is frequent, are common sites of scabies outbreaks:
  • Nursing homes
  • Extended-care facilities
  • Prisons
  • Child care facilities
Sometimes scabies is spread by sharing clothing, towels, or bedding used by an infected person; however, this is more likely to happen when the infected person has crusted scabies.

How can I protect myself?

Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin.  Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or with items such as clothing or bedding used by an infected person. Bedding and clothing worn or used next to the skin anytime during the 3 days before treatment should be washed using hot water and hot dryer cycles. 

Rooms used by a patient with crusted scabies should be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed after use. Environmental disinfestation using pesticide sprays or fogs generally is unnecessary and is discouraged.

How is Scabies disease treated?

Scabicides are used to treat scabies. Scabicides to treat human scabies are available only with a doctor’s prescription. Follow the instructions provided by the doctor and pharmacist, as well as those contained in the box or printed on the label. Scabies treatment usually is recommended for household contacts, particularly for those who have had prolonged skin-to-skin contact. All household members and other potentially exposed persons should be treated at the same time as the infested person to prevent possible reexposure and reinfestation.