Scabies Home > What Is Scabies?

What is scabies? It is a skin infestation with a microscopic mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). The infestation is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already carrying the mites. Symptoms usually begin slowly, with a minor rash and itching that tends to be worse at night. Treatment is focused on killing the mites and preventing a reinfestation.

What Is Scabies?

Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabiei.

How Frequent Are the Infections?

Scabies is a common infection found worldwide, and it affects people of all races and social classes. It spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in:
  • Hospitals
  • Institutions
  • Childcare facilities
  • Nursing homes.

Causes and Transmission Methods

As mentioned, scabies is caused by an infestation with the scabies mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). It is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with an infested person. Contact must be prolonged (a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. An infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.
(Click Scabies Causes for more information on what causes scabies.)
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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