Diseases that affect the skin can be of concern to both affected swimmers and those who have to share pools with them. Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection that causes bumps to appear on the body. They are usually flesh colored, and may occur in groups or singly. The virus has been known to spread among swimmers, although the evidence is unclear as to the method. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed some basic precautions for infected individuals who wish to swim.
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Precautions When Swimming
Swimming with molluscum is not prohibited, but to prevent the spread of the disease, these precautionary measures should be taken: use watertight bandages to cover all bumps; remove and dispose of the bandages at home, not at the pool; and do not share equipment, toys or towels with other swimmers. It is not yet known whether molluscum can survive the environment of pool water and, if so, for how long, so if you want to swim while infected, protect your fellow swimmers by following the recommendations.
“The Australian Journal of Dermatology” published a 1999 study of the link between molluscum and the swimming and bathing behaviors of 198 subjects infected with molluscum. The results showed a significant correlation between molluscum contagion and using a school swimming pool, but this did not apply to public swimming pools, home pools, beaches or even a home spa. Sharing bath towels and bath sponges also had a positive correlation with contagion. The researchers noted that many of the subjects who used school swimming pools also had the habit of sharing towels.
Spreading the Virus
The virus can spread from one part of your body to another by touching, rubbing or scratching. It can also be spread to other people by your hands, sexual contact and contact sports like wrestling. You can limit the spread of virus by keeping the bumps covered, as you will be less likely to touch them and infect other parts of your body and other people. Practice proper hand hygiene, cease sexual activity until cured, avoid contact sports, do not share personal items and take the necessary precautions when going swimming to keep the disease contained.
Whether or not the molluscum contagiosum virus can survive in pool water, it is clear that it is spread by contact. If you are careful, you can continue to enjoy swimming without being concerned about infecting your neighbor. While this is a common disease in children, when found on the genitals of adults it could be a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, and these adults should consider being screened for other STDs.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Molluscum (Molluscum Contagiosum): Frequently Asked Questions for Everyone; January 2011
- “The Australian Journal of Dermatology”; Molluscum, Swimming and Bathing; K. Choong; May 1999
- MayoClinic.com; Molluscum contagiosum: Prevention; February 2010
- MayoClinic.com; Molluscum contagiosum: Definition; February 2010