It is true, that a large number of cases do tend to be recorded amongst the homeless population where good hygiene is virtually impossible. However, people from any background can become infected. You will find infestations in care homes, hospitals and other facilities where people “live in.” Hygiene – good or bad makes no difference to itch mites
In all, around 300 million instances are thought to occur across the globe annually.
So, what is scabies?
Scabies is a skin disease which is very contagious. The disease is caused by a tiny mite known as the “itch mite” or to give it its proper name Sarcoptes scabiei. This eight legged parasite may only be 1/3 of a millimetre in length but if you become infested with these mites burrowing into your skin the chronic itching they cause can bring untold misery – especially at night.
In the case of human scabies it is the female mite which attacks. She burrows just under the skin, and creates a tunnel where she lays her eggs. In around three days the eggs hatch and the newly born mites make their way to the skins surface. Once mature the young mites will begin the breeding cycle over again.
The itch mite cannot jump or fly, it can only crawl meaning that the only way the infestation can be passed from person to person is through skin to skin contact over a period of time.
Mites will only survive on a host for between 24 and 36 hours in favourable conditions but they will become inactive if the temperature drops below 20oC (although this will not kill them.)
Scabies is most commonly spread between sexual partners, but any type of skin to skin contact can cause its spread for example an infested parent hugging a child.
It is worth noting that scabies or mange which affects cats and dogs does not spread to humans, animals are infected by a different type of mite which cannot survive on a human.