Impetigo DOES spread.
One of the groups at highest risk of contracting impetigo, a surface skin disease, is children ages two to six.(1) They can contract it at school or in daycare, but do not necessarily need to come into direct contact with another child or adult carrying the disease. A contaminated towel, bed sheet or piece of clothing can also pass on the impetigo.
Impetigo infections are more common in summertime, incubated and passed on by the warm, humid weather. There are also certain contact sports, like wrestling and football, that can spell trouble for players if one of their teammates or opponents has a case of impetigo.
The disease is spread by either direct contact with an infected person’s lesions, or coming into contact with that person’s nasal discharge or traces of the discharge on their hands, sleeves, and so on.(2) It usually takes one to three days, from the point of contact with an infected person, for the new carrier to find lesions forming on their skin.
Confusion with Herpes
One of the dangers of impetigo is that it can easily be confused with herpes.(3) However, while the former is a bacterial infection, the latter is a viral one. In addition, though impetigo does cluster mostly around the face area, it never spreads to inside the mouth, as herpes does.
The main danger with impetigo is that the blistering can turn into something more. If small pus-filled ulcers begin to form, then the disease has progressed to ecthyma. This deeper form of skin infection must immediately be treated. It penetrates deeper than impetigo, and if left unchecked, can leave permanent scarring and changes in a person’s pigmentation.
This type of complication, much like the threat of related kidney failure, is extremely rare.(4) In most cases, the worst that happens to a person suffering from impetigo is that it spreads to other skin regions. Nothing can be shared during the active period of the disease: towels, razors, bedsheets, and so on.
(1) Mayo Clinic – Impetigo: Risk Factors, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/impetigo/DS00464/DSECTION=risk-factors
(2) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease – Impetigo: Transmission, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/impetigo/Pages/transmission.aspx
(3) WebMD – Understanding Impetigo: Signs and Symptoms, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-impetigo-symptoms
(4) Drexel University College of Medicine – Impetigo, Retrieved June 15, 2011 from http://www.drexelmed.edu/home/HealthEncyclopediaArticles/DiseasesandConditions/Impetigo.html