Scabies is a condition that is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested with Sarcoptes scabiei mites. The infestation can be caused by sharing an infected person's clothing, towels, or bedding. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people. Races of mites found on other animals may establish infestations in humans, but they are not scabies causes.
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 the infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.
Sarcoptes scabiei (also known as the human itch mite or mange mite) are mites responsible for causing scabies in humans. Scabies is a common infection found worldwide, and it affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in:
- Nursing homes
- Childcare facilities.
Once away from the human body, mites do not survive more than 48 to 72 hours. When living on a person, an adult female mite can live up to a month.
Other races of mites may cause scabies infestations in other mammals, such as domestic cats, dogs, pigs, and horses. It should be noted that races of mites found on other animals may establish infestations in humans. They may cause temporary itching due to dermatitis, but they do not multiply on the human host (see Scabies in Pets).