A microscopic creature called the scabies mite can be a big problem. These tiny mites transfer from person to person through skin contact. Scabies are especially troublesome within a household or any community with a dense population. Prisons, nursing homes and childcare facilities can be vulnerable to scabies outbreaks. What's worse, the first time someone is infected with scabies, they may have no symptoms for up to two months, but will still be contagious during that time.
The scabies mite burrows into the skin and lives out its life cycle there. This includes laying eggs. One variety called Norwegian, or crusted, scabies is particularly severe. In this form, the victims form crusts of skin. These crusts are home to millions of mites and eggs. The victims are also much more contagious than people infested with less severe types of scabies.
Because one of the symptoms of a scabies infestation is itching, people with scabies run the risk of creating sores on their skin from scratching. These sores could later become infected, exacerbating the victim's condition.
Doctors treat scabies infestations with scabicides -- poisons designed to kill the mites and eggs. The most common version comes in the form of a lotion or cream.