Scabies are actually microscopic eight-legged mites known as sarcoptes scabiei. The scabies mites do not jump and they are unable to fly. Human scabies have the nickname of the human itch mite. Scabies mites that live on humans do not infect pets or animals, but reside exclusively on and within human skin. Scabies are attracted to the scent and heat radiating from humans. The female scabies or mites burrow into human skin and create small tunnels where they lay eggs and leave feces behind. The small tunnels are threadlike in appearance.
Female mites typically lay between 10 and 25 eggs during their lifespan. These eggs take two to three days to hatch into larvae. The larvae move to the skin's surface and are fully grown within two and a half weeks. This is a never-ending cycle until the scabies infestation is eradicated from anyone infected by them.
Once a mite has made contact with human skin it generally burrows into the skin immediately. They are particularly drawn to burrowing into wrinkled and rough skin areas such as the knees, elbows and knuckles.
Scabies can live up to 36 hours without a human host.
How Scabies are Spread
Lack of personal hygiene is not a cause of scabies. They are transmitted through physical contact regardless of the hygiene of the individual affected.
Since mites move very slowly, they are only transmitted by very close human contact or by sharing a bed or sitting for an extended amount of time on a couch where someone with scabies spent a lot of time. They can also spread by shared clothing and towels.
When an individual scratches a mite-infested area, this lends to the spread of these mites to other areas of the body.
Who is Most Affected?
Nursing homes, hospitals and childcare facilities are common locations for scabies to spread to many people quickly. This is because of the constant close proximity of many different people and the sharing of personal items that often occurs in such locations.
When first infested by scabies, an individual may take up to three weeks to develop symptoms. Symptoms include a rash, an itch and/or an inflammation of the skin. A massive scabies infestation causes thick, bruised and crusted over skin that can be very painful and unsightly.
Once scabies is treated and the mites are completely gone, an individual may still suffer from itchy skin for a few weeks.
No amount of bathing will rid a person of scabies.
Treatment for scabies is a topical ointment that must be prescribed by a physician. This medication is to be spread over the entire affected area. Physicians often recommend that a patient's entire family also be treated for scabies because of the highly contagious nature of this infestation.