Molluscum contagiosum(MV) is a viral infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV), resulting in a very characteristic skin rash. Once the virus enters a small break in the skin, the rash appears 2 to 7 weeks later. Although this infection is most common in children less than 12 years old, it can also occur in athletes who have close skin-to-skin contact, and in individuals with weakened immune systems.
The molluscum contagiosum rash
The typical rash looks like tiny pinkish/whitish pearly-like bumps called "mollusca" that actually contain the virus. It begins as a very small spot and can grow over a few weeks to become as large as a pea. Usually painless, the bumps can become itchy, sore or infected when scratched. The mollusca occur alone or in clusters and most commonly grow on the chest, stomach, arms/armpits, legs, groin, genital area, and face.
How is molluscum contagiosum spread?
The MCV can be spread from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact, but children can get also contract it by touching objects that have the virus on them, such as toys, clothing and bedding). The virus can spread in the same person by scratching or rubbing the bumps and then touching another part of the body. The infection can also can be spread through sexual contact.
How is molluscum contagiosum treated?
In most cases, the mollusca go away on their own without treatment after several months. However, new lesions may keep developing as old ones go away, and so it can take up to several years for the infection to go away completely.
Depending on the situation, there are some possible treatments available which either remove the lesions or help speed up the recovery. These include: removing the pimply center with tweezers, freezing or scraping them off, or applying specific medicated creams or preparations. Which treatment, if any, depends on the location and number of lesions and on the individual situation and circumstances.
Although in most cases the rash is not dangerous, people with weakened immune systems can get a more serious form of molluscum contagiosum that requires additional and more specialized treatments.
Preventing the spread of molluscum contagiosum
To prevent the spread of the MCV, infected people must follow these precautions:
Don't touch, scratch, or rub the rash.
Wash hands often with soap and water.
Keep areas with rash clean.
Cover the rash with clothing or a bandage, especially before participating in activities in which equipment is shared or skin contact can occur(swimming and wrestling).
Change each bandage daily or when dirty.
Don't shave over areas that have bumps.
Can children with MC still go to school or participate in sports?
As long as the above precautions are strictly followed until all of the bumps are gone completely, children with molluscum contagiosum can still go to school or daycare, participate in sports, and play with other kids. Note that if they participate in public swimming or sports they must not share towels, water toys and/ or clothing.