It’s easy to see why communicable skin diseases often prove hard to contain. Skin is humankind’s most exposed organ. The entire body is wrapped in it. When contagious diseases occur, any object the skin touches can become contaminated by the virus, bacteria, fungus or mite that is responsible for spreading the disease. Communicable skin diseases cause considerable problems for close communities, such as children and faculty in schools, or patients and health care professionals in hospitals.
Measles is a viral infection that causes fever, cough, white spots inside the mouth, and of course a red blotchy rash. It is extremely contagious and is contracted by breathing in the airborne virus that has been sprayed into the environment through coughing or sneezing.
Luckily, DermNet NZ attests that after suffering through one bout of measles, the individual most frequently develops an immunity that prevents any subsequent infections. An inoculation with measles vaccine can make it possible to avoid the disease entirely.
Most people associate herpes with the painful and embarrassing sores on the lips or genitals caused by the herpes simplex virus. But the herpes virus is also responsible for chickenpox and shingles. This type of herpes is called herpes zoster.
Herpes simplex can become transmitted through genital or oral sex, or by touching the affected area and spreading it via the hands. It can even affect the eyes.
The chickenpox vaccine proves effective in preventing an initial attack of herpes zoster. However, FamilyDoctor.org warns that those who have had chickenpox in childhood may later become vulnerable to shingles, which occurs in adulthood when immunity weakens and the virus escapes from the nerve cells that have held it in a dormant state.
The scaly, circular plaques associated with ringworm result from an infection by a type of fungi called dermatophytes. These kinds of infections can spread through contact with other humans, animals or soil contaminated with the fungus. The American Academy of Dermatology lists the hair follicles as also proving vulnerable to ringworm infection, as well as the groin and perineal area, medial thighs, buttocks and gluteal cleft. Dermatophytes prefer hot, humid environments, thus places like locker rooms and saunas may prove particularly prone to spreading in the disease.
Microscopic mites that burrow under the skin cause scabies. Scabies infection is often misdiagnosed as hives, psoriasis or eczema. It causes intense itching and a rash with pustules forming between the fingers or on the breasts, armpits or genitals. It’s easily passed from person to person, and can live on clothing for up to 48 hours, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
This highly contagious bacterial infection occurs more commonly in children, thus it is often referred to as “school sores," says DermNet NZ. Impetigo manifests as pus filled blisters and oozing patches that grow in size. It commonly affects the hands, face and other exposed areas of skin. This disease result from Streptococcus pyogenes and/or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Treatment involves cleaning the affected areas, as well as oral and topical antibiotics.