What is it and how do I get it?
Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that is caused by a virus. The virus only lives in the outer layer of skin and causes small bumps or lesions on the skin. MCV can be spread through close, direct contact with someone who is infected, or by coming into contact with contaminated objects, such as towels and flannels. The infection is not serious, although it can take a long time to heal and clear completely. There are four types of MCV, MCV-1 to -4, with MCV-1 being the most common and MCV-2 seen usually in adults and often sexually transmitted. In 2009, over 400 gay men were diagnosed with MCV at sexual health clinics in the UK .
How do I prevent it?
Preventing MCV can be difficult. However, if you know someone who has the virus, avoiding close contact can help until it has been treated. So long as the skin growths are present, there is a possibility of transmitting the infection to another person. When the growths are gone, the virus has also gone.
How do I know if I've got it?
MCV causes small bumps or lesions that are flesh-coloured, dome-shaped, and pearly in appearance. They are often one to five millimetres in diameter, with a dimpled centre. They are generally not painful, but they may itch or become irritated. MCV in adults usually affects the genitals, lower abdomen, buttocks and inner thighs. In rare cases, molluscum infections are also found on the lips, mouth and eyelids. A sexual health clinic can check for the lesions caused by MCV. This should form part of routine sexual health check-ups.
How do I get it treated?
While individual MCV lesions may go away on their own after a couple of months, it can spread. Large outbreaks can last for years. However, doctors can prescribe creams and treatments which can shorten the duration of the outbreak considerably. Surgical treatment is also available to remove the lesions or freeze them.
1 Health Protection Agency (HPA). Total numbers of STI diagnoses and other episodes of care seen at genitourinary medicine clinics by gender and sexual orientation, UK and England: 2000 - 2009. Health Protection Agency, 27 August 2010.