Causative organism
  • Pubic lice is caused by Pthirus pubis
  • Scabies is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis
  • See STI Guidelines
Incubation period
  • P. pubis 7-10 days
  • Scabies 2-6 weeks; or 1-4 days after re-infestation
How far to trace back
  • P. pubis 7-10 days before onset of symptoms
  • Scabies 6 weeks
Usual testing method
  •  P.pubis Visual inspection
  • Scabies Visual inspection +/- skin scrapings
Common symptoms
  • P. pubis – itching in the genital area
  • Scabies intense itching particularly at night or after a hot shower/bath
Likelihood of transmission per act of condomless intercourse
  •  Unknown but possible
Likelihood of long-term sexual partner being infected
  •   Probable
Protective effect of condoms
  •  Unknown but unlikely
Transmission by oral sex
  • P. pubislice can infest facial hair including eyelashes
  • Scabies – n/a
Duration of potential infectivity  Until treatment completed. Concurrent laundering of personal clothing and bed linen required.
Important sequelae  Secondary infection of lesions caused by scratching; Lymphadenitis
Direct benefit of detection and treatment of contacts  Cure

Usual management of contacts

  • P. pubistreatment with effective chemical & advised to launder personal underwear and bed linen used in the previous 7 days prior to treatment
  • Scabies Isolate until after treatmentAdvised to launder bed linen and personal clothing used in the 48 hours prior to treatment


For outbreaks in closed communities, such as residential aged care facilities, all residents and staff who have had contact with residents with scabies require treatment. Quarantine the affected area if possible. If staff from the affected area have worked elsewhere, that area should also be assessed. The source of a scabies outbreak in a residential aged care facility should be identified because the patient may have crusted scabies.

If a school-aged child has scabies, notify the school. Treatment of children who do not have scabies is not required. Children with scabies can return to school when two treatments for scabies, 1 week apart, are completed.

Contact tracing priority  Sexual partners and close household contacts
Notification  Not required


Heymann D, 2015 Control of Communicable Diseases Manual An Official Report of the American Public Health Association


Page last updated May 2021