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Very contagious skin disease: More and more scabies patients in Germany


Scabies on the rise: the number of skin diseases is increasing
Some people think that scabies have been eradicated in this country, but this is not the case. According to experts, the itching cases are increasing again. The contagious skin disease has nothing to do with poor hygiene, as is often assumed.

Increase in cases of scabies in Germany
Even if many people in this country consider the scabies to be eradicated: the contagious skin disease occurs worldwide and affects people of all ages - including in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), data from countries with a cool climate show a tendency for a higher incidence in the cold season. An increase in the number of scabies is now being reported again in parts of Germany.

More intensive body contact in winter
The RKI's Epidemiological Bulletin (27/2016) explains why illnesses can accumulate, especially during the cold months: "This could be due to more intensive physical contact in winter, but also an extended survival time of the mites on textiles at low ambient temperatures reflect, ”said the experts.

Years ago it was reported that there are more cases of scabies in Germany. According to media reports, illnesses are currently being reported in North Rhine-Westphalia, for example in the city region of Aachen.

Diagnosis and treatment are becoming an issue
According to a report by the "Rheinische Post" (RP), the professional association of German dermatologists announced that the number of cases of scabies was increasing. Although there are no concrete numbers, the feedback from dermatologists indicated an increase in diseases.

The spokesman for the professional association, Ralf Blumenthal, therefore explained that the diagnosis and treatment of the itchy skin disease are becoming an increasingly important topic in advanced scientific training.

In the Aachen region, the number of cases reported from schools and daycare centers rose from eleven (2013) to 316 (November 2016). "There is no explanation for this increase," said the spokesman for the Detlef Funken urban region. First, the "Aachener Zeitung" and "Aachener Nachrichten" reported on the situation in the urban region.

According to the RP, a striking frequency of scabies had also been recorded in Krefeld, Euskirchen, Cologne and Düsseldorf in the past few months.

Skin disease is caused by itch mites
Scabies is a parasitic skin disease that is accompanied by red pustules, itchy rash and pain. The uncomfortable complaints are caused by itch mites, the droppings and eggs in the skin of those affected, where they trigger allergic reactions.

This then triggers the severe itching that gave the disease its name. Seeing the cause of scabies in poor hygiene is a prejudice, experts say.

The mites usually look for parts of the body with a thin horny layer and a higher body temperature, so that in particular finger spaces, wrists, elbows, genital area, buttocks, navel, armpits, the area behind the ears, knees, flexions, ankles and feet are affected.

The neck and head are often affected in small children. First of all, the infection runs without symptoms. It is only after about two to five weeks that there is an immune reaction with the typical symptoms.

Clinical appearance has changed
According to RP, dermatologist and lecturer at the University of Cologne, Bernhard Korge, explained that people with dry skin are more affected than people with oily skin. According to the doctor, the diagnosis has become more difficult because the clinical appearance has changed and may resemble eczema.

After the correct diagnosis and the right medication, the patient no longer poses a risk of infection after just one day.

Transmission through direct skin-to-skin contact
As a rule, scabies are transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact. The risk of infection is particularly high when many people are in a confined space. According to Korge, in addition to kindergartens and schools, hotel beds, old people's homes and hospitals can also be breeding grounds.

According to the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Health, diseases in day care centers and schools have to be reported to the local health authorities. However, the Ministry estimates that the number of cases in the urban region is very low. Accordingly, only 0.06 percent of the population is affected.

Kill mites at higher temperatures
According to the RKI, it is very likely that scabies mites will not be infectious for longer than 48 hours at the usual room temperature and humidity in Germany (21 degrees and 40–80 percent relative humidity).

“At an ambient temperature of 34 ° C, mites survive less than 24 hours, at 50 ° C (e.g. washing machine, dryer) not more than 10 minutes. Lower temperatures and a higher relative humidity, on the other hand, extend the survival time, ”said the experts.

Therefore: clothes, bed linen, towels and other objects with longer physical contact should be washed at least 50 degrees for at least ten minutes. "If this is not possible, the objects and textiles can be packed in plastic bags or sealed in foil and stored for 72 hours at at least 21 ° C," writes the RKI.

Upholstered furniture, sofa cushions or textile floor coverings can be vacuumed with a strong vacuum cleaner (dispose of the filter and bag afterwards) or not used for at least 48 hours. (ad)

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