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Exactly What are Human Scabies?
. . . You may have hear about human scabies and bed bugs from your kids school, or on your local TV-news. That's because there appears to be a serious epidemic of human scabies and bed bugs happening in school systems around the nation, especially lower grades of elementary schools. Your children's teacher may be sending your kid home with notes regarding some kids in-fact having scabies so be on the alert for the notes and human scabies on your children too, since scabies are contagious as far as scabie mites spreading from child to child.
Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). The microscopic human scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies.
Scabies is found worldwide and affects people of all races and social classes, especially children. Scabies in humans can spread rapidly under crowded conditions where close body and skin contact is frequent. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. Child care facilities also are a common site of scabies infestations.
What are Crusted (Norwegian) Scabies?
Crusted scabies is a severe form of human scabies which may occur in some peoples who are immuno-compromised (have a weak immune system), elderly, disabled, or debilitated. It is also called Norwegian scabies. Persons with crusted scabies have thick crusts of skin that contain large numbers of scabies mites and eggs. Persons with crusted scabies are very contagious to other persons and can spread the infestation easily both by direct skin-to-skin contact and by contamination of items such as their clothing, bedding, and furniture. Persons with crusted scabies may not show the usually signs and symptoms of scabies such as the characteristic rash or itching (pruritus). Persons with crusted scabies should receive quick and aggressive medical treatment for their infestation to prevent outbreaks of scabies.
How Soon After Infestation do Symptoms of Scabies Begin?
If a person has never had scabies before, symptoms may take as long as 4-6 weeks to begin. It is important to remember that an infested person can spread scabies during this time, even if he/she does not have symptoms yet.
In a person who has had scabies before, symptoms usually appear much sooner (1-4 days) after exposure.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Scabies Infestation?
The most common signs and symptoms of scabies are intense itching (pruritus), especially at night, and a pimple-like (papular) itchy rash. The itching and rash each may affect much of the body or be limited to common sites such as the wrist, elbow, armpit, webbing between the fingers, nipple, penis, waist, belt-line, and buttocks. The rash also can include tiny blisters (vesicles) and scales. Scratching the rash can cause skin sores; sometimes these sores become infected by bacteria.
Tiny burrows sometimes are seen on the skin; these are caused by the female scabies mite tunneling just beneath the surface of the skin. These burrows appear as tiny raised and crooked (serpiginous) grayish-white or skin-colored lines on the skin surface. Because mites are often few in number (only 10-15 mites per person), these burrows may be difficult to find. They are found most often in the webbing between the fingers, in the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee, and on the penis, breast, or shoulder blades. Click-here for Health Tip-of-the-Day.
The head, face, neck, palms, and soles often are involved in infants and very young children, but usually not adults and older children.
Persons with crusted scabies may not show the usual signs and symptoms of scabies such as the characteristic rash or itching (pruritus).
How Did I Get Scabies?
Scabies usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies. Contact generally must be prolonged; a quick handshake or hug usually will not spread scabies. Scabies is spread easily to sexual partners and household members. Scabies in adults frequently is sexually acquired. Scabies sometimes is spread indirectly by sharing articles such as clothing, towels, or bedding used by an infested person; however, such indirect spread can occur much more easily when the infested person has crusted scabies.