More and more cases of scabies in the Netherlands: this is how you recognize the contagious skin condition

There is an upward trend in the number of cases of scabies in the Netherlands. This is reported by Nivel, a public knowledge organization that conducts research into healthcare. But what exactly is scabies? And how do you recognize it?

Nivel collects data from general practitioners. Every year an analysis is made of how many people have had a certain disease.

What is scabies?

But what exactly is scabies? Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by the scabies mite. This is a small animal that cannot be seen with the naked eye’, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The mite digs superficial tunnels in the skin, where it then lays its eggs. Scabies is also known as scabies.

Increasing trend

The Nivel therefore sees an increasing trend in the number of cases of scabies in the Netherlands. It has been that way for several years now. ‘The annual figures are our precise figures, but we also look at the data from general practitioners on a weekly basis. And there you can see very well whether there are sudden changes. We are now seeing that it is going up a lot, says Mariëtte Hooiveld, surveillance project leader.

Age Groups and Regions

The figures are highest in the 15 to 24 age group (45 cases per 100,000 inhabitants). When it comes to the region, most cases occur in Groningen, Drenthe and Rotterdam Rijnmond. In week 46 it concerned 14 out of 100,000 people in the Netherlands, but these are only the people who actually reported to the GP.

young people

Heiman Wertheim, professor of clinical microbiology at Radboudumc in Nijmegen, confirms that scabies has become more common among young people in recent years. ‘It usually occurs in student houses, where young people live close together and share things.’ It can also spread through skin-to-skin contact.


Now that a clear trend has been observed, he believes it is important that a good approach is mapped out. The task of the knowledge organization is to provide the figures. It is then up to infectious disease control to conduct further research into this.

‘Don’t make it worse than it is, but annoying’

Wertheim: ‘There must be a systematic approach. There is already a scabies working group and I can imagine that there are different interests due to corona, but this is not going well. Students need to be made much more aware so that it doesn’t keep spreading. We shouldn’t make it worse than it is, but it is something annoying that could be better coordinated.’

Scabies is very contagious. One of the most common complaints is itching. You suffer from this due to an allergic reaction to the mite. The itching may increase when it is hot, but also at night.

Blisters and red bumps can also form on the skin, often between the fingers, wrists and feet. The tunnels that the scabies mite has dug in the skin can also be visible as red stripes. Children up to the age of four can also develop scalp complaints.

How do you treat scabies?

Scabies does not go away on its own, but it can be treated well with a special cream (permethrin). The skin condition can also be treated with ivermectin pills on prescription from the general practitioner. You can read more about the treatment of scabies.

Source: Level / RIVM



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