Scabies

The scabies is a skin disease caused by parasites, more specifically itch mites. The vernacular refers to the infection not in vain as "scabies" - typical symptom is a tormenting itching that - especially in the bed heat - the affected person's need to scratch continuously. Read all about the symptoms, the course and the treatment of scabies here.

The scabies - a well-known disease

The scabies, colloquially known as mange, vines or grind, was already known in ancient times. Already 1, 000 years ago, the Arab At-Tabari minutely described the animal pathogen and its location in the skin as well as the possibilities of mastering the disease.

Unfortunately, this knowledge was ignored by most doctors over the centuries, although the people often knew how to help themselves: The mites were poked out of the blisters with a needle point and crushed with fingernails. Ointments containing sulfur and mercury were also used to treat scabies.

How is Scabies transmitted?

Today, the doctors are smarter and the treatment options more effective. Nevertheless, the itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) still occurs worldwide. This parasite is highly contagious and transmitted through tight body contact.

This does not necessarily have to be sexual intercourse - already unfavorable housing conditions with many people in a small space enough. This is why community facilities are often affected. Hygiene deficiencies, common sleeping places and changing sexual contacts favor the infection.

About the itch mite

The itch mites are about 0.2 to 0.5 millimeters in size and make it comfortable at room temperature in clothes, bedding, upholstered furniture or carpets. They can survive up to three days (up to two weeks in the cold) without a human host.

If a suitable sacrifice is within reach, the fertilized females will be boring under its skin within a few minutes, digging angled, 1 cm long and 0.5 to 2 mm wide aisles. At the end they stay for the rest of their lives, so for about a month, sit and lay daily feces and one to two eggs. The hatched larvae drill outwards and after about two weeks a new cycle begins.

In most cases, an infected person has around ten to 50 live mite females. However, there is also a particularly contagious form (Scabies norvegica), in which up to 200 mites can frolic on a square centimeter of skin.

Symptoms and course of scabies

In a first infection with itch mites complaints are felt after three to six weeks, with a renewed infection after 24 hours (due to the already activated immune system).

The following symptoms are typical of scabies:

  • Skin irritations in the form of blisters and pustules as well as redness occur as a result of drilling.
  • Mite, bugs and eggs cause a strong itching.
  • In all parts of the body, with the exception of the face and the hairy head, comma-shaped, usually reddish courses may be present.

The animals especially like to stay in the following regions of the body:

  • between the fingers
  • in the axillary folds
  • at the elbows
  • on the nipples
  • at the navel
  • on the penis
  • at the inner foot edge and at the ankle

The pronounced scratching can also develop a bacterial infection at the corresponding skin areas. Without treatment, it can come to self-healing after about a quarter of a year.

Diagnosis of scabies

The diagnosis is often made because of the typical symptoms. It is not always possible to microscopically detect the mites on a skin scraping or after dissecting with a needle. Nevertheless, therapy is recommended if there is sufficient suspicion.

What helps against scabies?

In most cases, applied to the skin ointments for the treatment of scabies, in pronounced infestation, however, a special agent must be swallowed. All persons who are in close contact with the infected person must be treated. The therapy is repeated after one week.

Also important are general measures to kill the mites safely. This includes:

  • the frequent change and decoction of towels, bed linen and underwear
  • Thorough vacuuming of upholstered furniture, carpets and pillows
  • the seven-day airing of non-washable textiles

Even better is a dry cleaning of outerwear and blankets.

Is scabies notifiable?

According to the Infection Protection Act, scabies only have to be reported if the disease breaks out in community facilities, because the cause of the infestation by the itch mites must be investigated. A suspected infestation must be reported immediately to the responsible health department.

Notifiable are facilities such as:

  • kindergartens
  • schools
  • Nursing homes
  • children's homes
  • other community facilities

Infested persons may not stay or work in community facilities during the disease phase.

Hard facts and dark numbers

According to the World Health Organization, around 300 million people worldwide are infected with scabies. All climates and socioeconomic classes are affected - but epidemics tend to occur in socially deprived, heavily populated areas with poor sanitation and water supply.

Especially the mites seem to feel in urban areas of the tropics. In the northern hemisphere, the frequency of their occurrence in the winter months increases.

7 important facts about scabies

The most important information about scabies can be found here at a glance:

  1. Scabies is highly contagious and occurs worldwide.
  2. Scabies is caused by the so-called itch mite.
  3. The transmission of the scabies takes place mainly by direct physical contact, but can also take place indirectly via laundry or upholstery.
  4. A typical symptom is a strong itching, especially at night.
  5. Family members and sexual partners must be treated.
  6. In addition to the specific therapy with an antimycotic also general hygienic measures must be taken.
  7. Scabies is only reportable at the outbreak and suspicion in community facilities.
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