Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection

What is Molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a common and relatively harmless (but highly contagious) viral infection of the skin. The spots are easily recognized, and are small (2-6mm) dome-like shiny pimples / papules often grouped together. Molluscum contagiosum occurs most frequently in children and young adults, but can affect people of any age. A large UK general-practice survey reported that the annual incidence of cases of Molluscum contagiosum in children under 15 years of age was 1,265/100,000 and 90% of reported cases occurred in children under 15, with the maximum incidence in pre-schoolers aged 1-4 years1. The condition usually clears within 12-18 months without treatment but can last longer and causes those affected much embarrassment and self-consciousness.

What causes Molluscum contagiosum?

The rash is caused by the Molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) and is spread through close personal contact with someone who is affected (by sharing towels, flannels, or clothing, for example). The incubation period lasts a few weeks after which point the spots (or papules) appear. Once one area of skin is affected, the rash can spread to other areas of the skin, through transfer of the virus (touching spots, scratching, or on clothing). The condition tends to be more common and extensive in people who suffer from atopic eczema.

Is Molluscum contagiosum contagious?

Molluscum contagiosum is very contagious and is spread from person to person by touching the affected skin or a surface with the virus on it. So if someone in the family is affected, keep their towels, washcloths, toys and clothing separate to avoid spreading it amongst the others in the household. Scratching the spots / papules can release the virus increasing its spread, both to others and to other areas of the skin not yet affected. Try and discourage those affected from doing this. In adults Molluscum contagiosum can be spread from person to person by sexual contact.

As the virus prefers warm and moist conditions, it is possible Molluscum contagiosum could be spread by sharing swimming pools, baths or saunas, however this remains unproven. It is more likely that the virus is spread by sharing towels and swimsuits rather than through water. For a guide on minimising the spread of Molluscum contagiosum, please go to the treatment section of the website.

MolluDab Infographic