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Scabies is an itchy skin rash caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Approximately 300 million cases of infestation with scabies occur worldwide every year.

The scabies mite is a tiny arthropod (distantly related to the spiders) about the size of a grain of salt, which burrows under the human skin. An allergic reaction produces a rash of tiny red spots, with itching, often severe, and often worse at night. The mite prefers to live on the hands and feet, the buttocks, genitals, and warmer areas of the body such as the waistband or under watches or jewelry. The rash may become secondarily infected; scratching the rash may break the skin and make secondary infection more likely.

The scabies mite is spread by close personal contact, from holding hands to sexual contact (thus scabies is sometimes classed as a sexually transmitted disease), and by sharing clothing and living quarters, however it can only survive a day or so away from the human body.

The scabies mite is easily killed with creams or lotions available from a doctor, but all persons who may be in contact with the scabies sufferer must be treated at the same time.

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