How Are Scabies Spread?

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Many types of mites from animals may cause temporary dermatitis in humans, but only the scabies mite multiplies on the human host, causing a red, itchy rash that resolves with prescription medication. Only people can infest each other with scabies--the "human itch mite."

Infestation Begins

  • A human scabies infestation usually begins when one impregnated scabies mites is transferred from one person to another. The female mite begins to lay two to three eggs a day in the outer layer of the skin for the duration of her one to two-month life span, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Physical Contact

  • The American Social Health Association states that scabies isn't likely to be spread simply by shaking hands or hugging. Scabies spread through direct and sustained physical contact.

Sexual Contact

  • When adults get scabies, it's usually through exposure to an infested sexual partner, notes ASHA. Those who spend the night with an infested sexual partner are more likely to get scabies.

Other Ways Scabies Spread

  • The scabies mite can live up to three days without a human host. Scabies spread by having sustained contact with the bedding, towels or clothing exposed to someone with scabies.

Higher-Risk Scabies

  • Norwegian (crusted) scabies, in which up to 2 million mites infest a human host, are extremely contagious. These may be transmitted even during brief contact, such as a handshake.

Other Scabies FAQs

  • ASHA notes that it can be between four to six weeks before an infested person first notices signs and symptoms of scabies. During the period when they are asymptomatic, they can still spread scabies to others.

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