Q. What is molluscum contagiosum (mollusk-um conta-gio-sum)?
A. Molluscum contagiosum is a virus. The molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) is a member of the poxvirus family. (2) It most commonly affects children between 1 and 12 years of age, but can also happen in adults who live in a warm, humid climate and/or who live in crowded living conditions. Molluscum infections are quite common, but are rarely serious.
An MCV infection only affects the skin and does not affect other bodily systems. The infection will appear as a small, white, pink, or skin-colored bump, similar to a wart or pimple. It varies from the size of a pinhead to the size of a pencil eraser, about 2 to 5 millimeters.
“The bumps may appear anywhere on the body, alone or in groups. They are usually painless, although they may be itchy, red, swollen and/or sore.” (1) These bumps may have a dimple in the center.
Q. How is molluscum contagiosum transmitted?
A. The infection spreads through direct contact with the infected area, or touching infected surfaces. To avoid giving the infection to someone else, keep the area clean and covered with clothing or bandages, so others cannot touch the area. Do not share towels, clothing or other personal items that may have come in contact.
The infection can spread not only person-to-person, but also to other areas of the body. To prevent this, avoid picking and scratching at the bumps, and wash your hands thoroughly after touching an infected area.
Q. Can my child still go to daycare/school or go swimming?
A. So long as the area is covered by clothing or a bandage, there is no reason to keep the child home from daycare or school.
As for swimming, “[a]lthough the virus might be spread by sharing swimming pools, baths, saunas, or other wet and warm environments, this has not been proven. Researchers who have investigated this idea think it is more likely the virus is spread by sharing towels and other items around a pool or sauna than through water.” (1)
Q. How is molluscum contagiosum treated?