Scabies is an ectoparasitic infection of the skin with the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It is spread during skin-to-skin contact, both during sexual and nonsexual contact. The mites can live for up to 48 hours on bedsheets and clothing and are impossible to see with the naked eye.
Incidence Infection with scabies occurs worldwide and among all races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Like pubic lice, there are no mandated reporting laws, but scabies affects millions of people worldwide (Schleicher & Stewart, 1997).
Symptoms Usually the first symptoms include a rash and intense itching. The first time a person is infected, the symptoms may take between 4 and 6 weeks to develop. If a person has been infected with scabies before, the symptoms usually develop more quickly.
Diagnosis A diagnosis can usually be made on examination of the skin rash. A skin scraping can be done to confirm the diagnosis. However, it is easy to miss a scabies infection, as there are usually fewer than 10 mites on an entire body during infestation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005b).
Treatment Topical creams are available to treat scabies. All bedsheets, clothing, and towels must be washed in hot water, and all sexual partners should be treated. Usually itching continues for 2 to 3 weeks after infection, even after treatment.
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