Ringworm

Ringworm is a term used for a range of fungal skin infections of animals and people. The different types of fungus produce slightly different diseases and affect different hosts.

The term 'ringworm' is derived from the characteristic red ring that appears on the skin when ringworm is present.

Cause

Different species of fungus.

Distribution in Queensland

Ringworm occurs worldwide and is common in Queensland.

Life cycle

Lesions take approximately 1-3 weeks to develop after contact with the fungal agent.

Affected animals

cattle; sheep; goats; horses; dogs; cats; pigs; humans

Hosts

Farm animals, horses, dogs and cats

Symptoms

It begins as 1 or more small round red spots which become larger. Then the centre begins to clear. It then appears as a ring-shaped irritation with a slightly elevated scaly border and a patchy pale centre. Classical ringworm lesions are usually seen. Irritation and itching can occur. No actual 'worm' is involved.

It is more common in animals that are kept closer together in animal accommodation but can occur in animals at pasture.

How it is spread

Ringworm can affect anyone. In a lifetime, people have a 20-30% risk of developing an infection.

Ringworm is highly contagious and can be contracted from other people or animals that are infected. Direct contact is not necessary as the fungus can remain alive for many months on bedding, grooming implements and animal housing. It is common to find lesions on warm, moist areas of the body (e.g. feet, armpits, groin) although lesions have the potential to form anywhere on the body.

Risk period

  • People with an impaired immune system are at greater risk of developing an infection (e.g. HIV/AIDS, diabetes or leukaemia).
  • Young people are usually at a greater risk due to their greater susceptibility and increased opportunities to contact other affected children.
  • Those who handle puppies or kittens are at increased risk of infection.
  • Warmer, more humid climates encourage fungal growth.

Control

Prevention

Avoid close contact with animals and take special care when handling animals with skin conditions.

Do not share clothing, towels or headwear with other people.

Be observant and seek treatment quickly if any ringworm lesions appear.

Treatment

Topical creams and oral anti-fungal treatments are available for animals.

Severe infections in humans may require additional oral anti-fungal treatment (e.g. Griseofulvan or Itraconazole).

More information