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Is Scabies Contagious

Updated on February 26, 2010

Scabies is a common infection that can be seen in people of all ethnicities, all ages, both sexes, and at all socio economic levels. There is a common misconception that this infection is not caused due to the lack of personal hygiene however this is not the case. In fact, this infection is caused in people who reside in urban and crowded places. The people who mostly stay in crowded places like nursing homes, prisons, child care facilities and hospitals are most vulnerable to Scabies.

From the above it is evident that scabies affects people of all ages. There is a question in the minds of many people and that is- Is scabies contagious? The answer to this question is yes. Scabies is highly contagious among people who live in the above mentioned places where they stay in crowded places for long periods of time and are in close contact with one another.

Scabies are generally caused by mites that cause skin irritation and rash. The common locations for the occurrence of scabies are the areas between the fingers, the inner wrists, elbows, armpits, navel, lower abdomen, buttocks and the back of the knees. It is rare to see lesions on the face, scalp, and neck in adults and these areas are commonly affected in children aged less than 2 years.

The scabies rash is itchy and it enhances further when a pregnant mite burrows into the skin and lays her eggs. The immune system of a human being is sensitive to the presence of the mite and it produces an allergic response that leads to intense itching. The average infected person will have ten to twenty mites present on the body. There can be a large number of lesions because of this allergic response and in such a case immediate medical treatment is required.

As mentioned above scabies is extremely contagious and only after prolonged skin contact is the infection spread. If there is skin contact for a short period like a hug or a handshake the infection will not spread. Scabies is highly contagious among sexual partners and to other members of a household. If a person does not have the symptoms of scabies he or she can easily pass the infection to other people. The passing of the infection is less common and not spread by the sharing of towels, clothing or bedding.

The most obvious signs of the scabies rash are pink-to-red bumps, which can look like pimples or bug bites, sometimes with scale or a scab present on them. The lesion of scabies is a burrow that is small and very difficult to see. The burrow appears and looks like a small thread like scaly line usually around 3 to 10 mm long. It may also have the presence of a tiny black speck that is the burrowing mite at one end. The adult mite is very small and is about 0.3 mm long. The scabies mites crawl and at night they become very itchy. Intense scratching causes breaks in the skin and this leads to the area being infected with bacteria.

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