Scabies are tiny mites (smaller than crabs) that burrow under the skin to lay eggs.

Symptoms are usually noticed within four weeks of contact. The most common symptom is intense itching which is caused when the mites burrow under the skin. The burrowing causes fine red marks on the skin. The mites like warm areas of skin, such as the groin or armpits. They are also found in the spaces between the fingers and toes. Itching is usually worse while warm, like when in bed.

Scabies are passed on through skin to skin contact, both sexual and non-sexual. They are detected by examining the itchy area under a bright light.

Scabies are cured by using the appropriate scabies lotions available at pharmacies. All bed linen, towels and underwear that have come in contact with the infected area should be washed in a hot soapy wash. Sexual partners and anyone in close physical contact should also be treated to avoid re-infection. It is also advisable to repeat the treatment after seven to ten days.

Severe immunosuppression can lead to difficulty eradicating scabies. Otherwise, people with HIV are not affected differently to others.

There are no specific means to prevent picking up scabies, however getting them treated quickly will reduce the risk of transmission to others and will lessen the amount of scabies in the community.