Scabies is a skin condition caused by the human scabies mite, a parasitic microorganism that tunnels under its human host’s skin to lay eggs. Severe itching and a red, pimple-like rash characterize scabies. People with scabies can transmit the mite to others by direct physical contact or by sharing bedding, towels, clothes or other personal items. Individuals, families and institutions can stop scabies from spreading by limiting person-to-person contact and thoroughly cleaning the environment as soon as the condition has been identified.
To prevent person-to-person transmission of the scabies mite, people with scabies should avoid having direct physical contact with others and sharing clothes, towels or personal belongings until treatment is complete. Towels, bedding and clothes that have been used by people who have scabies within three days before treatment begins should be washed with hot water, dry-cleaned or stored in a sealed bag for 72 hours to one week. Homes should be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed to remove mites. Scabies mites may survive for two to three days away from a human host.
Scabies outbreaks may occur in nursing homes, hospitals, college dormitories or other shared housing facilities where people live in close quarters. In hospitals and nursing homes, the staff should wear gloves and protective gowns when taking care of patients with scabies symptoms. The room occupied by a person with scabies should be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed, and all bedding, towels and clothing should be washed or sealed for 72 hours to one week. Pesticides are usually not required to remove mites from the living environment.
People who have regular person-to-person contact with someone who has scabies-–including family members and sexual partners--should receive treatment at the same time to prevent reinfestation, even if they are asymptomatic. In cases of crusted (Norwegian) scabies, preventive measures should be rapid and intensive to avoid transmission of this virulent form of the condition.