Staph infections are caused by a family of bacteria called Staphylococcus. There are at least 40 known species of Staphylococcus bacteria worldwide that can be found on almost all surfaces. On people, staphylococcus bacteria can be found on skin and in your nose without causing any symptoms or disease. It can be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or from objects. Staphylococcus can survive extreme environments like drying, high temperatures and even stomach acid. Staphylococcus is found on 20 to 30% of healthy adults and still show no signs of staph infection. However, staph infections can become serious when it enters the body. It can quickly spread through the bloodstream to other major organs joints, lungs or the heart. Staph infections can range from minor skin irritations to flesh eating disease and some infections can produce toxins.
Some strains of staphylococcus are also antibiotic resistant which can be really scary if you have a weakened immune system or have to stay in a hospital. It is the leading cause of infection in the United States according to the CDC. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most important antibiotic resistant bacteria is a major concern in the North America.
Staph infection symptoms can range from minor food poisoning to necrotic flesh eating disease. Usually people experience symptoms like itchy blisters, redness and swelling. Boils or abscesses are a collection of pus, swelling and redness. Cellulitis is a deep tissue infections causes swelling and redness it can be itchy and painful. Other symptoms include fever, chills, and nausea. Impetigo, typically seen with children, it causes blisters that burst and crust over. Blisters are usually itchy but they should not be touched to minimize exposure to others and reduce healing time. When the bacteria enters the body it can move all over. Staphylococcus can survive stomach acid and as a result food poisoning is common when eating contaminated food or with contaminated utensils. Also known as the 24 hour flu, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which leads to dehydration. Another common side effect is low blood pressure. Food poisoning usually lasts about 48hours, seek medical help if it persists. Staphylococcus can also produce toxins cause serious illness like Toxic shock or scalded skin syndromes. Flesh eating disease – fever, swelling and joint pain continuing to blisters and dead tissue. Surgery and antibiotics are the typical treatment for this infection.
Questions and Answers
Q: What are the Treatments?
A: Staph infections can easily be treated with antibiotics and antibiotic ointments. Surgical draining of accesses is also recommended. There are several Staphylococcus strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Sometimes in more severe cases surgical removal of infected tissue can be needed.
Q: How is it transmitted?
A: There are several methods to transmitting staph infections. Some of these include:
- Person to person contact - the most common way to come into contact with Staphylococcus is from another infected person. While normal touching like hugging is probably unlikely to get you sick, the bacteria are transmitted by people Staphylococcus is contagious and the bacteria are extremely resilient. People are also be carriers and transmit the bacteria without showing symptoms or infection.
- Injuries or wounds – staph infections become more serious when they enter the body. Injuries and surgical procedures are common points of infection. This can be made worse in hospitals where antibiotic resistant strains can be found more readily.
- People with compromised immune systems – With a weakened immune system it is already easier to become infected and treatments can be harder on the body.
- Contact with infected surfaces – Staphylococcus bacteria can survive some pretty harsh environments and can last on surfaces for hours. Door handles, eating utensils and even linens are commons surfaces with Staphylococcus on it.
Q: How can it be prevented?
A: Prevention can be fairly easy. Wash hands with soap and water along with alcohol based hand sanitizers. Clean your house often and wash towels and linens. Avoid touching infected areas with bare skin, use gloves and wash hands thoroughly and often.
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