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Molluscum Incubation Period

An incubation period is the time between exposure to a disease-causing organism and the onset of symptoms. The incubation period for the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) ranges from two weeks to six months, but is usually between two and seven weeks, making it difficult to determine where, when, and how someone was infected.

Usually MCV is passed by contact with someone's papules (raised skin bumps) or a surface or object that has touched them (known as a fomite). It is not known if infected skin is contagious before it presents symptoms. If you suspect that you've been in contact with the virus, it will not hurt to avoid swimming pools, sharing baths, hairbrushes, razors, bar soap, unwashed clothes, towels, and water toys for up to six months (it is not certain whether warm water is at all involved in transmission or if the objects and bodily contact associated with it are responsible). Frequent hand washing may also help. Individuals who may have been infected should discuss with their current or potential partners whether or not abstaining from sexual contact or at least using a barrier method (condom, dental dam (a rectangular piece of latex or silicone used to prevent transmission of fluids from the anus, mouth, and vulva in the course of oral sex), etc.) for six months after contact is worth the inconvenience or not, keeping in mind that molluscum contagiosum is not dangerous to otherwise healthy individuals or a life-long affliction.

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed based on the distinctive appearance of the papules and/or examination of the material removed from the centre of a lesion under a microscope, so testing cannot be done until an outbreak occurs. It is, however, impossible to ever know whether or not you will develop symptoms in the future as you may be exposed to the virus at any time and the incubation period can be months long, so it is really up to you whether you consider taking the above precautions all the time to be a worthwhile endeavour.

If you do develop bumps, contact a healthcare professional. Herpes lesions (skin abnormalities) and warts caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) have similar incubation periods and similar lesions and, for these reasons, are often confused with molluscum papules, especially when found in the genital areas. Herpes requires a very different treatment than molluscum lesions, unlike warts, caused by strains of HPV, which can be treated in a manner similar to molluscum papules. The herpes virus remains in the body for life and both herpes and HPV persist even when symptoms are not visible (though HPV usually dies after one to two years), so it is important that these conditions receive proper treatment to minimize the risk of further transmission. You should visit a medical professional whenever you have skin irritation, a rash, bumps, or blisters that persist for more than a few days as he or she will be in a better position to make a correct diagnosis that will ensure proper treatment.

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