Staph infection, or Staphylococcus aureus, looks like a skin rash but can be more serious. In some extreme cases, it can even be fatal in humans or animals. This condition is contagious and can be passed from person to person. This form of infection used to be more common in people who were on bed rest. Staph was a common problem in nursing homes and some hospitals. Today, more people are becoming infected.
Almost everyone, approximately 75% of the human race, has the staph bacteria. Staphylococcus is usually present in the nasal cavities. For most people it is not dangerous. Staph infections develop when the bacteria comes into contact with the bloodstream. This can happen with a cut or open wound or by transfer from an infected person. Staph can also become a problem for the elderly, small children and people suffering from a weakened immune system.
The most common symptom first appears as a rash. In some cases it may resemble acne. In most cases it is bright red, almost like a burn. Other signs are boils, or abscesses and skin lesions. In cases of infections these skin irritations are usually accompanied with pain, swelling and pus. Once staph reaches the blood the symptoms are fever, chills and low blood pressure.
With 30 different types of Staphylococcus out there, anyone can develop a staph infection. Certain high risk groups are more susceptible than others. People considered to be at high risk are infants, the elderly, diabetics and IV drug users. Staph is spread person to person by sharing needles, contact with open sores or sharing personal products like razors.
Some of the more common ailments associated with staph are skin disorders like impetigo and cellulitis. Breastfeeding women can develop a skin condition known as scalded skin syndrome, this is very rare. Infection can be passed in the breast milk from mother to baby.
One form of Staphylococcus settles in the bowels and is caused from food poisoning. Signs are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Food poisoning usually lasts 24 – 48 hours and in most cases, is harmless.
More serious problems can develop if Staphylococcus gets in the bloodstream. People suffering from lung disease can get staph pneumonia. This infection can damage the heart valves and lead to endocarditis and heart failure. When the infection is in the blood, it is known as sepsis. This condition causes shock, circulatory collapse and death.
At the first sign of any staph infection see your doctor. Treatments prescribed will include antibiotics such as penicillin or methicillin. Topical ointments may be used to reduce the pain and swelling of skin ailments. The infected person is still contagious, for about 48 hours, after starting the antibiotics.