Basically, scabies is a skin condition that is highly contagious and itchy. It is caused by the microscopic human itch mite, which burrows into the upper skin layer where it lives and lays its eggs. The main symptoms are a pimple-like rash and intense itching. It is transmitted through direct and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
It is commonly viewed as a sexually transmitted disease because sexual contact is the most common method of transmission of the condition among sexually active young people. Treatment usually consists of scabicidal creams.
It is estimated that about 300 million cases of scabies occur annually worldwide, and has been reported for over 2,500 years.
Those are the basics. But let’s take a microscopic look at this condition. I must warn you, though. The details are rather creepy for those who have a natural aversion to bugs.
How does Scabies Start and How do you Get it?
As mentioned, scabies is caused by the human itch mite. A mite is a tiny eight-legged parasite measuring only 1/3 of a millimeter long. It is the female mites that do the infesting. The mite is unable to fly or jump, but it does crawl. And, even though they are immobile at temperatures below 20 degrees C (68 F), they can survive for long periods of time at these temperatures.
Since the scabies mite cannot fly or jump, like fleas, they can only move from one person to another through direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact. The emphasis here is on prolonged. “It is hard, if not impossible, to catch scabies by shaking hands, hanging your coat next to someone who has it, or even sharing bedclothes that had mites in them the night before ... School settings typically do not provide the level of prolonged personal contact necessary for transmission of the mites.” (Medicinenet.com) Transmission can occur, however, through sexual contact and hugging.
Symptoms & Signs of Scabies
The first time a person is infested, symptoms of itching and rash do not usually appear for up to two months, although a person can still spread the infestation during this time.