Molluscum Contagiosum : Sexually Transmitted Disease Facts
Caused by molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV)
Molluscum is generally a benign infection and symptoms may resolve without treatment. Molluscum was once a disease primarily of children, but it has evolved to become a sexually transmitted disease in adults.
Download PDF versions of this fact sheet, formatted for print:
Signs and Symptoms
May appear 1 week to 6 months after infection, with an average of 2 to 3 months:
- Painless, flesh colored, gray-white, yellow or pink lesions, lasting from 2 weeks to 4 years with an average of 2 years.
- Lesions appear on the genitals, abdomen, inner thigh or anal area.
- Lesions may begin as small bumps but can develop into larger sores or bumps.
- People with AIDS or others with compromised immune systems may develop numerous lesions.
- Sexual contact (most common)
- Inanimate objects: towels and clothing
- Swimming pools and sharing baths
- Skin to skin contact
- May spread from one part of the body to another (autoinoculation)
- Can spread to sex partners
- If co-infected with HIV, molluscum infection may be more severe
- Molluscum increases the risk for other skin infections
- Avoiding vaginal, oral or anal sex is the best way to prevent STDs.
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
- Limit the number of sex partners.
- Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of molluscum infection only when the infected areas are covered or protected by the condom.
- If infected with molluscum, avoid touching the lesion and then touching other parts of the body (autoinoculation).
- Sexual partners should be examined and treated at same time.
Testing and Treatment
- Get a test from a medical provider if infection is suspected.
- Removal of lesions reduces autoinoculation and transmission to others.
Removal of lesions can be accomplished using:
- Surgery or electrosurgery
Note: Lesions may recur after treatment.
For more information, contact:
STD, HIV and TB Section
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline
1-800-783-2287 Voice/TTY; 651-645-9360 (Metro)
CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines
1-800-CDC-INFO; 1-888-232-6348 TTY