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Scabies is a skin infection caused by an insect called the human itch mite, which burrows into a person's skin and lays its eggs. This causes intense itching and rashes on the skin that look like acne. Common areas for these infections include the armpits, wrists, elbows, buttocks, shoulder blades, waist, penis or the space between the fingers. But they can also occur elsewhere on the body. In some cases, areas where the mites have burrowed can be visible on the skin.

How Scabies Is Spread

Usually, passing scabies from one person to another requires prolonged skin-to-skin contact. It can be easily spread through sexual contact or contact between a parent and a child. Nursing homes, prisons and other places where many people are crowded together are other places where scabies outbreaks are often seen. Clothing, bedding and towels also can be contaminated with scabies and potentially spread the mites.

Prevention and Treatment

The best method for avoiding scabies is to not have skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies until the infection is resolved. Any bedding, clothing or towels that the person has touched should be washed and dried with heat, or sealed in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours to kill the mites.

A scabies infection is treated with a prescription cream. No over-the-counter product has been proven to kill scabies, despite claims to the contrary. Typically, the treatment involves applying the product to the entire body, and then leaving it on for a certain period of time before washing it off. This may need to be done for several days to completely end the scabies infection.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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