Communicable Disease Information

Scabies: Ways to Limit the Spread of Infestation


Data Researched and Written by

Roger McFadden,

Senior Scientist, Staples Inc.


Scabies is a contagious and communicable skin irritation and is caused by a very tiny mite, SARCOPTES SCABIEI or “itch mite”.  It has been labeled by an age-old nickname “the seven-year itch”. These mites are about the size of the dot at the end of this sentence. They are gray in color and nearly transparent. The mite is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact between people. Mites can also shed onto clothes, towels, pillows, bedding and furniture. The mites do not survive more than a few days without body contact.



Treatment of Infected Persons

Treatment usually consists of an application of a crème or lotion containing the scabies-killing insecticide. The drug of choice is 5% permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid sold under the prescription drug named, Elimite. One application of permethrin is usually curative. Other alternative drugs are Crotamiton-10% sold under the prescription drug name, Eurax or lindane sold under the prescription drug names, Kwell or Scabene.  A total body application should be made from the neck down. Scabies rarely affects the heads of children or adults, but could occur in infants. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS PROVIDED WITH THE LOTION OR CRÈME.


Ways to Control the Spread of Scabies


  1. Look for signs of scabies during the morning health check and refer suspected cases for evaluation and treatment
  2. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning or working in an area known to have scabies infestations
  3. Separate and Isolate clothing and bedding likely to contain the mites.
  4. Launder clothing, towels and bedding in a machine with hot water and laundry detergent. Chlorine Bleach (Clorox) can be used for bleachable whites. Dry the clothing in a hot dryer. Non-washable items should be dry-cleaned.
  5. Personal items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned should be sealed in a plastic garbage bag for a period of one to two weeks to ensure the elimination of all mites.
  6. Vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture. Carpets can be cleaned using the carpet extraction method if additional protection is required.
  7. Clean hard surface areas likely to harbor the mites using a hospital grade disinfectant-cleaner. Be certain the cloths or wipers used to wipe surfaces are properly disposed of or separated and laundered.

Source:  Centers for Disease Control (CDC)