What is scabies? Scabies is a contagious, itchy skin disease caused by an infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei, a microscopic mite that burrows under the skin. Scabies is characterized by intense itching caused by a skin reaction to the mites. Itching most often occurs at night and may be accompanied by pimple-like irritations or rashes, and sores caused by scratching. Scabies is a common disease that can affect any gender, race, age group, or social background. More than 300 million scabies cases occur globally every year, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (Source: AOCD). Scabies spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Transmission commonly occurs between family members and sexual partners. Scabies is a major problem in crowded areas, particularly in hospitals, child care centers, prisons, and nursing homes. In some cases, scabies is transmitted by sharing unwashed clothes, towels and bedding. Your pets are not able to spread human scabies, but they can be affected by a different mite infection called mange. It’s important to know that even people with good personal hygiene can catch scabies. Fortunately, effective medications called scabicides can treat scabies, while washing and drying clothes at hot temperatures can eradicate infestations in clothing and bedding. Crusted (or Norwegian) scabies is a more serious and extremely infectious form of the disease. Crusted scabies affects large areas of the body, such as the hands and feet, causing scaly and crusted skin. Thousands of mites infest areas of skin under the crusts, which makes it difficult to kill the live mites and their eggs. Crusted scabies is mostly found among older people or people who are immunocompromised, such as organ transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS patients. In some cases, scabies and crusted scabies can lead to serious complications, such as secondary infections and poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, which is inflammation of the kidneys. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of scabies, such as intense itching and a skin rash. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of complications.