The eight-legged mite that causes scabies in humans is microscopic. The female mite burrows just beneath your skin and produces a tunnel in which it deposits eggs. The eggs hatch in three to four days, and the mite larvae work their way to the surface of your skin, where they mature and can spread to other areas of your skin or to the skin of other people. The itching of scabies results from your body's allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and their waste.

Close physical contact and, less often, sharing clothing or bedding with an infected person can spread the mites.

Dogs, cats and humans all are affected by their own distinct species of mite. Each species of mite prefers one specific type of host and doesn't live long away from that preferred host. So humans may have a temporary skin reaction from contact with the animal scabies mite. But people are unlikely to develop full-blown scabies from this source, as they might from contact with the human scabies mite.

Jul. 24, 2012

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