How Scabies Spreads

Key points

  • Scabies is contagious.
  • Anyone can get scabies.
  • You must be treated by a healthcare professional for scabies.


Human scabies is caused by the human itch mite parasite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).

How it spreads

You can get scabies by

  • Direct, extended, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies or
  • Less commonly by sharing clothing, towels, or bedding used by an infected person.

Understanding risk

Scabies can spread easily under crowded conditions where close body and skin contact is frequent. Places where scabies outbreaks more commonly occur include· Nursing homes· Extended care facilities· Detention facilities including jails and prisons· Childcare facilities· Homeless shelters or encampments

  • Nursing homes
  • Extended care facilities
  • Detention facilities including jails and prisons
  • Childcare facilities
  • Homeless shelters or encampments

A quick handshake or hug will not usually spread scabies. Scabies is spread to close personal contacts with whom you have prolonged, direct skin-to-skin contact or share bedding or clothing, such as sexual partners and household members.

Crusted scabies is a more severe and contagious form of scabies. It spreads quickly and easily, even from limited direct contact or from contaminated bedding, clothing, or furniture.