Alert: High presence of scabies in Montreal

Image de la Gale

Roger-Luc Chayer (Images: Which.co.uk)

I was recently informed that a strong presence of scabies in Montreal is on the verge of becoming uncontrollable, if it hasn’t already.

Scabies is a contagious skin infestation caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. This mite does not spread other diseases, does not have the ability to fly or jump, and can survive for a maximum of 4 days away from its human host. Following exposure to an infected individual, mites feed by creating tunnels in the skin. The body’s immune response to these parasites results in severe itching. Scabies is a prevalent and highly contagious condition, affecting people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. It can lead to outbreaks in communal settings. Transmission mainly occurs through direct skin-to-skin contact, often during sexual activity.

Image de la gale

Scabies is characterized by intense itching, which is usually worse at night. The burrows made by parasites often appear as very fine lines, up to one centimeter long, sometimes with a small bump (the mite) at the end. Frequently, scratching the itchy burrows can result in bacterial skin infections, commonly referred to as secondary infections. Occasionally, only small bumps are visible, most of which are scratched due to the itching.

The bumps may be present throughout the body, including the breasts and penis. In adults, they are absent from the face. First appear between the fingers, on the wrists, in the crook of the elbows, under the arms, at the waist, or on the buttocks. Subsequently, it becomes challenging to discern the burrows as they are obscured by skin inflammation resulting from scratching. People of all orientations can be affected.

What about HIV and Scabies?

You cannot contract HIV through scabies. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is mainly transmitted via bodily fluids like blood and semen. Scabies, however, is caused by mites that spread through direct physical contact. These two infections are different and have distinct modes of transmission.

Treatment

A suspension of spinosad is applied to the entire skin, from the neck down to the bottom of the feet. For those who are bald, the lotion should also be applied to the scalp, forehead, hairline, and temples. After it has dried, the person can dress and leave the lotion on the skin for 6 hours before showering or washing it off. You should repeat the treatment a week later. Never touch the eyes.

Ivermectin is a medicine that can be taken by mouth in two doses, one week apart. It works well for people who can’t use topical medicine because they have a weak immune system.

Even after treatment that kills the mites, itching and bumps may last for 3 weeks because of an allergic reaction to the mite corpses.

Prevention

Avoid direct contact with a person with scabies.
Don’t share clothing or bedding with someone who has scabies.