“It could be scabies”

This pest is the scourge of nursing homes and institutions for the elderly throughout the world.

The scabies mite. Image from Wikipedia, author Kalumet.

Scabies is normally treated with topical applications of Lyclear Dermal Cream or Derbac M, both pesticides. But once again, evolution has given rise to mite populations that are entirely resistant to these. Australia is now finding this out the hard way. And with international air travel, these pesticide-resistant little devils are now making their way all over the world.

In civilised countries, injectable or oral Ivermectin (another pesticide, trade name Stromectol) can be used to deal successfully with these.

But not in Ireland. In Ireland you will continue to suffer because Ivermectin is not licensed for human use. What a great little country, eh?

If dislodged from the host, the scabies mite can survive for three to four days.

Scabies is normally only transmitted through personal skin-to-skin contact. And it must involve an impregnated female mite for the transmission to become an infestation, which normally constitutes a parasite load of 8-12 mites.

But in certain conditions and in certain patients, particularly those with a compromised immune system, the infestation can develop to involve thousands of them. This is known as Norwegian Scabies or Encrusted Scabies, which is highly infectious. Again, Ivermectin is the agent of choice when dealing with this condition.

Except, of course, if you live in Ireland.

I’ve said above that scabies is only normally transmitted through intimate interpersonal contact. But it can also be picked up and spread from fomites.

According to Wikipedia:

A fomite is any inanimate object or substance capable of carrying infections (such as germs or parasites) and hence transferring them from one individual to another. A fomite can be anything (such as a cloth or mop-head). Skin cells, hair, clothing, and bedding are common hospital sources of contamination.

Remember that fleece blanket that came in with a new admission to Hospital A and ended up in my mother’s hospital bag? I believe that blanket was the source of the bedbugs and the scabies.

Take a good look at the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Now imagine seeing it move across your pubic area. It was darker than my skin and semi-translucent. While mature females live in burrows under your skin, newly-impregnated females will go wandering on the surface in search of a suitable site to build their permanent homes. Male mites don’t live in burrows but shallow pits in the skin. They, too, wander the surface of your skin, looking for females to impregnate.

I had scabies.

My doctor prescribed Lyclear Dermal Cream. I tried it. Twice. It didn’t work.

We moved on to Derbac M. I tried it. Twice. It didn’t work.

I was doomed.

Or was I?

The Non-pesticide Solution

Since the non-pesticidal diatomaceous earth had worked so effectively for fleas, I decided to investigate this route with the scabies.

And found Kleen Green. It’s a multi-enzyme solution that contains protease, amylase, cellulase, and lipase. It works by disrupting the moulting mechanism of these insects, forcing them to leave their burrows and drop off your skin. You dilute it with water and spray it onto the affected areas, then massage it in three times a day for a month. I took no chances so I sprayed my entire body from head to foot.

Which is no fun in the middle of winter with a broken central heating system that I couldn’t get fixed for fear of infesting the engineer.

But I persevered because I had no choice.

Within two weeks, always while lying in bed at night, I picked eight scabies mites off my buttocks, perineum, and lumbar back area and dropped them into my drowning jar on the bedside locker. This contained water with a tablespoon of dishwashing soap which guarantees they will sink to the bottom and drown. I had this jar positioned in front of my bedside lamp so I could clearly see what I was drowning.

All eight were oval in shape, semi-translucent, and period-sized.

I continued spraying my body for the full month.

The itching faded completely after another month. And that was the end of my scabies.

But the tickles remained. And they happened mainly in places the scabies mite does not populate: scalp, around eyes and eyebrows, nose, nostrils, ears, cheeks, chin, neck.

I still had a problem. I decided to consult a dermatologist.

And boy was that a big mistake.
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