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Scabies in Humans and Pets

*Scabies is a medically treated parasite and can not be controlled by a pest control professional.  Contact your physician for treatment.  This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional or for self-diagnosis.*

The human form of Sarcoptes scabiei is the result of an infestation of the human itch mite.  Scabies mites are microscopic and burrow into the upper layer of skin.  The most common symptoms of scabies are a pimple-like rash and intense itching.  These mites are most commonly spread through prolonged direct skin-to-skin contact with an infested person.  Scabies is a world-wide parasite and is often encountered in institutional facilities such as nursing homes, prisons and extended-care facilities where crowded conditions increase close body contact. Scabies mites are capable of infesting people of all races and social statures.  In a person that has never encountered scabies, symptoms may take up to 4-6 weeks to begin, whereas a person that has had scabies previously may have symptoms appear in as little as 1-4 days.  It is important to remember that it is possible to spread scabies prior to the appearance of symptoms.  Itching and rash caused by scabies may cover a majority of the body or only small areas.  Scratching the rash can result in bacterial infections and open sores.

Typically the mites are very minimal in numbers with only 10-15 mites per person being fairly common.  However, in severe cases, referred to as crusted scabies, the host may be covered in thousands of scabies mites.  Individuals who are immune compromised in some manner either by age or illness, are most likely to experience crusted scabies type infestation; in these cases, the individual may not experience the typical symptoms of an infestation.  Crusted scabies is highly contagious and spreads easily through direct contact with the infested person or their personal belongings.  On a person, scabies mites often live 1-2 months; however, once they are off a person they do not typically live beyond 48-72 hours.  Diagnosis is typically determined by a doctor performing a skin scraping which is examined under a microscope to look for indications of the mites, fecal material and/or eggs. Once diagnosis has been confirmed, medication for treatment is prescribed.  It is not uncommon for treatment to be recommended for members of the same household due to the close contact and sometimes shared items such as towels, blankets/bedding.

While pets do not carry the human form of scabies, they too can experience a different species of scabies in the form of sarcoptic mange.  These mites can also cause skin irritations and itching on humans, although they are unable to reproduce on a human host.  Pets must also be medically treated by a veterinarian.  In either case, human or pet, thorough vacuuming of the home as well as washing bedding on hot water and drying on high heat may be recommended in order to reduce the spread of the mites.  Pest control and fumigation are not considered treatment for scabies mites.