Zurich announces new measures to control scabies outbreak

Zurich announces new measures to control scabies outbreak

Following a rise in cases, officials and healthcare providers in Canton Zurich have announced several new measures designed to combat scabies. Here’s what you need to know about scabies and what to do if you think you have the condition.

Canton Zurich adopts measures against scabies: What you need to know

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, Cantonal Doctor Christiane Meier confirmed that Canton Zurich has seen a significant rise in the number of scabies cases. Since the beginning of 2024, a total of 70 cases have been reported, with Meier predicting that up to 140 people could be infected with the condition so far.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition caused by a mite called sarcoptes scabiei. Once they are transferred, the eight-legged mites burrow into the skin, where the females then lay eggs and defecate. This causes an allergic reaction in humans. University Hospital of Basel expert Simon Müller told Blick that the first symptoms of scabies can appear around three weeks after being infected with the mite, with it eventually spreading to all parts of the body.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

The most common symptoms of scabies include itching, especially at night. Red bumps, pustules and rashes are also common signs, with most congregating around the hands and fingers, under the arms and around the groin. A doctor can diagnose scabies by taking a skin sample and spotting the mites by putting it under a microscope.

Is scabies contagious or dangerous?

While scabies is not a serious condition, it must be treated and it is highly contagious - it can be transferred via direct skin contact and furniture, clothing and bedding. Typically, all members of the household and all sexual partners of those infected must treat themselves for scabies, even if they display no symptoms.

In terms of treatment, usually, a cream or lotion will be prescribed, which you must apply over your whole body. This cream will usually be available from a pharmacy. Be sure to wash your clothes at a 60-degree high heat as soon as possible, and seal all clothes that cannot be washed for three days until the mites die.

Most importantly, see a doctor if you feel you or a loved one may be infected with scabies to stop the mite spreading further.

How common is scabies in Switzerland?

Müller explained that while it is difficult to say how common scabies is in Switzerland - scabies patients are not obliged to report their condition - the number of cases has been on the rise since 2015. He noted that the cramped and poor hygiene conditions experienced by refugees and migrants to Switzerland in recent years have kickstarted the number of cases.

Today, asylum centres, old people's homes and childcare centres are the places most affected by the disease. Indeed, Blick noted that a majority of recent scabies cases were from daycare centres in Zurich and Winterthur.

What is Canton Zurich doing to combat scabies?

To combat the rise, the Zurich Children’s Hospital and Cantonal Hospital of Winterthur will be offering special consultations to anyone who thinks they or their children have scabies. Local doctors and hospitals will also be contacting daycare centres, giving them guidance and advice on how to contain the disease and inform parents.

Finally, while the canton has advised those affected to contact their doctor first, a special AERZTEFON (0800 33 66 55) helpline will be available around the clock for anyone who is concerned about the condition. Officials estimate that the new measures will be in place for six months. For more information about the changes, check out the official press release.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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