scabies [key], highly contagious parasitic skin disease caused by the itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). The disease is also known as itch. It is acquired through close contact with an infested individual or contaminated clothing and is most prevalent among those living in crowded and unhygienic conditions. The female mite burrows her way into the skin, depositing eggs along the tunnel. The larvae hatch in several days and find their way into the hair follicles. Itching is most intense at night because of the nocturnal activity of the parasites. Aside from the burrows, which are usually clearly visible, there are a variety of skin lesions, many of them brought on by scratching and infection, including impetigo. All clothing and bedding of the victim and his household should be disinfected. Disinfestation of the skin is accomplished by applying creams or lotions containing permethrin or gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane or by taking ivermectin. A variety of S. scabiei causes mange in animals.
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