How Do You Get Scabies?
Scabies FAQ - How Do You Get Scabies?
Scabies is an infectious and highly contagious disease of the skin caused by a mite of the species Sarcoptes scabiei. This small, eight-legged parasite burrows into the skin to produce symptoms, most notably an intense itching sensation. The eggs of the mite also trigger a localized allergic response, worsening the itching of the skin.
There are other, similar mites that can cause skin diseases in animals, but these mites do not usually infect humans and the human scabies mites do not normally infect pets. In pets, the disease caused by mites is called sarcoptic mange instead of scabies. The mite that can cause disease in human hosts is actually the female S. scabiei mite; the female mite uses the human host to lay fertilized eggs.
Scabies is a worldwide disease that has been around for at least 2,500 years. Awareness of how the contagious skin disease spreads is the best way to prevent contracting a case of scabies. Recently, scabies has become particularly common in nursing homes and other types of communal living situations.
Scabies require the warmth of a human body to survive, but they can survive up to 48 hours away from a human host. Direct skin contact is the easiest way to transmit the scabies mite from person to person. Scabies is most commonly transmitted via sexual contact, simply due to the prolonged skin-to-skin contact involved, but the disease can also be transmitted via prolonged skin contact during activities such as hand holding or embracing. The longer the duration of the skin-to-skin contact, the greater the chance of transmission of scabies mites to a new host.
Since the scabies mite can survive for approximately two days outside of the human body, it can survive for this long in clothing, bedding and dust around the home. It is possible that children catch scabies from sharing bed linens or clothing, but it is much more likely to transmit the disease through skin-to-skin contact than through clothing and objects.
The skin infection caused by scabies spreads more easily in crowded situations, such as schools and living facilities, and in areas where physical contact is likely. Children can contract the disease easily if there is a child suffering from scabies in their school or on the playground. Caregivers of children in child care centers and nursing rooms are also susceptible to picking up infections from children with scabies that come in to their facilities, because a lot of physical contact is required for caring for a young child. If you run into someone who is suffering from this infection, then make sure to take steps to minimize your chance of contracting the disease from them via physical contact.
Prolonged physical contact is much more likely to spread scabies than physical contact of shorter duration, such as a handshake or a quick hug. However, there is a chance of contracting scabies from an infected person through any physical contact. Scabies infections are easily spread to sexual partners and other members of the same household. It is possible for transmission to occur if clothing, towels or bedding are shared between household members.
When a person has a scabies mite infection, an itchy skin rash results that can be visually identified. The scabies mites burrow into the skin and cause a rash that appears as a series of dark or red-colored lines. The scabies mite can also cause a type of rash that looks like red bumps; these bumps are where young scabies mites are hatched in the skin. The scabies rash is prone to scabbing over or becoming infected.