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Indiana State Department of Health

ISDH Home > About the Agency > Schools Communicable Disease Guide > Impetigo Impetigo

Clinical Description
Impetigo is a skin eruption caused by either streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria that may proceed through vesicular, pustular, and encrusted stages. Impetigo is characterized by red bumps, usually on the face (particularly around the nose and mouth) or extremities.  The red bumps fill with pus, break open and form a honey-colored crust. The lesions are usually itchy, but not painful. The rash typically lasts 2- 3 weeks.

Incubation Period
Symptoms usually begin 1-3 days after exposure for Streptococcus; usually 4-10 days for Staphylococcus.

Mode of Transmission
Infection is spread by direct contact with secretions from lesions.

Period of Communicability
A person who is untreated can spread the bacteria for as long as drainage occurs from lesions.  Infected individuals can no longer transmit the infection within 24 hours after the initiation of antibiotic therapy.

Parents should be advised to keep contagious children home until 24 hours after starting topical or oral antibiotic therapy.  Contacts of cases do not need to be excluded.

• Encourage frequent hand-washing.
• Educate students to avoid scratching and touching the infected area and then touching another area of the body.  Other prevention/care suggestions include:
• Wear disposable gloves while applying any treatments to infected skin.
• Draining lesions should be covered at all times with a dressing.
• Call caregiver of child.
• Watch for additional cases.

Other Resources
Indiana State Department of Health Quick Fact Link:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Link:

Mayo Clinic Link: