Scabies in Nursing Homes and Other Environments: Is Scabies Contagious?

Monika Pawar   by Monika Pawar, MS    Last updated on May 18, 2018,

scabies contagious

 

How infectious is scabies?

Yes, scabies is a very contagious disease. The mode of transmission of the disease from one person to another can be any of the following:

  • prolonged skin-to-skin contact (such as holding hands)
  • other forms of physical contact (such as mother hugging a baby)
  • intimate personal contact (such as during sexual intercourse)
  • sharing personal items like clothing, bedding, handkerchiefs and towels of the individual with a scabies infection

How is scabies transmitted?

Since scabies is mostly transmitted through direct physical contact, the infestation can easily be passed on to people close to the affected one like family members, friends, office colleagues and sexual partners.

The chances of the infestation are high in certain places like:

  • Schools
  • Playgrounds
  • Hostels
  • Working premises like offices
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehab facilities
  • Sports locker rooms
  • Prisons

Scabies can infest any individual if he comes in contact with the mites. People in good health can also be infected by the condition. The only known risk factor is prolonged direct skin to skin contact with the one infested already.

Even maintaining good hygiene and practicing healthy habits cannot prevent transmission if there is close contact with an infected person. The condition appears in clusters, so it is possible that the symptoms may occur within a given community.

Scabies mites can also more easily spread among people with compromised immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

Mange: Can You Get Scabies from a Pet? Can you get scabies from a cat or a dog?

When dogs and cats get scabies, it is known as mange. The scabies mite can travel to the human skin while handling an infested pet, but these mites can’t reproduce in human skin. This means they usually die off within 2-3 days without causing any serious symptoms. Hence, there is no fear of getting scabies from pets.

Can scabies spread by swimming in a public pool?

Scabies is spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies disease. As discussed above, it can also spread by contact with items such as clothing, bedding, or towels that have been used by a person who is infested with scabies disease, but such spread is very uncommon.

Scabies is very unlikely to spread by water in a swimming pool. Except for a person with crusted scabies, only about 10-15 scabies mites are present on an infested person. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that any would emerge from under wet skin. But, though uncommon, there are chances of its spread.

Scabies in daycare centers

Daycare centers are mostly at the risk of scabies outbreaks. Young children are more prone to the infection because they tend to play in ways that involve skin-to-skin contact. They may also share naptime mats and blankets.

The infection can easily transmit from one child to another. Therefore, if a child who attends such a daycare is infected with scabies, the staff should be notified about the condition of the child so that proper precautions can be taken in order to avoid further transmission of the disease.

The classmates and caregivers of the affected child will probably need to be treated as well, even if the symptoms have yet to appear.

Scabies in nursing homes

Long-term care facilities like nursing homes are also prone to scabies outbreaks. This is because caregivers help the residents with various chores like bathing and dressing which involve direct skin to skin contact. Therefore, if any such case is encountered, it is recommended that all new long-term care patients and staff should be screened for scabies.

Scabies in schools and hostels

Scabies can spread easily in children at school and in hostels. Scabies is a highly contagious condition, but at the same time it is also easily treatable. Therefore, for even a single case of scabies, it is better to recommend screening for the children and staff who are in close contact with the affected child.