Molluscum Contagiosum

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.

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STD Facts: Molluscum Contagiosum Virus (MCV)

On this page:
Signs and Symptoms
Transmission
Complications
Prevention
Testing and Treatment
For More Information

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.

Transmission

  • 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)

Complications

  • Can spread to sex partners
  • If co-infected with HIV, molluscum infection may be more severe
  • Molluscum increases the risk for other skin infections

Prevention

  • 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
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy

Note: Lesions may recur after treatment.

For more information, contact:

STD and HIV Section
Minnesota Department of Health
(651) 201-5414

Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline Attention: Non-MDH link
1-800-783-2287 Voice/TTY; (651) 645-9360 (Metro)

American Social Health Association (ASHA)
Attention: Non-MDH link

CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines
Attention: Non-MDH link
1-800-CDC-INFO; 1-888-232-6348 TTY
1-800-344-7432 (Spanish)

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Updated Tuesday, 26-Mar-2013 13:57:57 CDT