Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scabies and mange mites

drawing of a scabies miteWhat causes scabies and mange?

Both conditions are caused by a tiny mite (drawing left) that burrows into the skin causing irritation and intense itching.

Many mites (tiny, eight-legged animals more closely related to spiders than to insects) cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. These include house dust mites, grocers itch mites, chiggers or red mites, and several different fowl mites.

Only one mite, however, actually burrows into the skin. These are scabies, or the human itch, mites. In cats and dogs we use the term mange to describe two different mite infestations. One of the mange mites is the same one that causes scabies in humans.

What does scabies look like?

Scabies mites are very small (female: 1/60"). They burrow into and feed under the skin. They spend their entire life cycle on the host, but can survive off-host for up to 10 days, if conditions are moist. For this reason the mites can be transmitted by infested clothing, towels, bedding, and so forth. Burrowing and feeding causes intense itching that when scratched, may lead to infection and open wounds. Hard, pinhead-size pimples containing a yellow fluid may form over infested areas. You may also see faint grayish or reddish lines under the skin.

Where does a scabies infestation come from?

Transmission of scabies mites usually is by close contact with infested individuals. Suspected infestations should be directed to a physician. This is a medical problem for the most part and cannot be handled by pest control in the home. Very effective topical lotions are available to treat scabies outbreaks. Treatment may be repeated at 3-10 days to kill mites hatching from eggs, but follow medical advice in all cases. Clothing and bedding from an infested individual should be carefully laundered or dry cleaned.

Use the links below for more biology and control information.

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