By Emma Mitchell • 10 September 2023 • 11:45
Scabies. Credit: Image by Freepik
The Spanish Association of Dermatology has issued a warning that Scabies is on the rise in Spain, thanks in part to lack of awareness of the condition and diagnosed sufferers failing to follow recommendations.
Scabies is a skin complaint that is reckoned to affect around 130 million people globally at any one time and is a condition often associated with poverty. Scabies is caused by a mite, almost invisible to the naked eye, burrowing beneath the skin to lay eggs and causing an immune reaction in the sufferer as a result.
The elderly and very young are particularly vulnerable to the condition and it’s more common in environments where large numbers of people coexist, such as prisons or health institutions. However Cristina Galván, Vice President of the International Association for the Control of Scabies, warns, “Scabies can affect anyone, of any age, health situation and socioeconomic condition.”
Scabies has been on the rise in Spain since 2014 and appears to have escalated since COVID, likely due to sufferers worried about seeking medical advice for issues that didn’t seem urgent in the context of the pandemic. Some areas, such as the Basque Country, have employed trackers used during COVID to track instances of Scabies in their region.
Symptoms of Scabies usually manifest four to six weeks after the sufferer has been a victim of the mite’s infestation. The first symptoms are a deep, uncomfortable itch that worsens in the afternoon and at bedtime. The itch is rarely present on the head or face. The sufferer may break out in hives as their immune system responds and scratch affected areas which can lead to bacterial infections and associated worsening symptoms.
Much like treating lice, the treatment for Scabies involves the application of the pesticide Permethrin. In addition, sufferers need to wash all clothes and bed linen at 50 degrees or higher. Any materials too delicate to wash at that temperature can be put into plastic bags overnight in a freezer.
Other than treating the patient, it is vitally important that the sufferer contacts people they have had close, sustained contact with in the previous two months to enable them to get checked out.
Although Scabies is a contagious condition, it does require direct skin-to-skin contact for twenty minutes or more so isn’t easily transmitted. Despite the facts on transmission, scare stories abound on Social Media about Scabies being passed in the dressing rooms of clothing stores.
Outbreaks of Scabies are exacerbated by the actions of the sufferer. Abc.es reported recently that The Spanish Academy of Dermatology conducted a study of 186 cases from 15 autonomous communities and found that 64 per cent of those diagnosed had previously sought treatment and only 36 per cent had followed the treatment protocols. Half of patients in the study had not been given clear written guidelines and recommendations for treatment.
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Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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