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Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning: Transmission, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis, Complications

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that can produce 7 different toxins and is usually the root cause of food poisoning in human beings (2, 3). Staphylococcus aureus is commonly present on the skin and inside the nose of many healthy people (1, 2).

How is Staphylococcus Aureus Transmitted?

Staphylococcus aureus is often transferred to food products like cheese and milk via contact with food workers infected with this bacterium (1, 2).

What are the Causes of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

The cause behind this food poisoning is contaminated food products by Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium has a high salt tolerance and therefore can easily thrive in ham and such type of meats and dairy products (4). The toxins produced by Staphylococcus Aureus are heat resistant and therefore do not get destroyed by cooking (2).

After food has been contaminated, there is multiplication of Staphylococcus Aureus (2). Food items commonly linked with Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning are cheeses and milk and the common cause of contamination is via contact with food workers carrying this bacteria.

Is Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning Fatal?

Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning (SFP) is not fatal and many of the patients suffering from SFP do not even need treatment, as this condition resolves on its own. In majority of the patients, the food poisoning passes in around two days.

What are the Symptoms of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

The symptoms of Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning resemble that of acute gastroenteritis or digestive tract inflammation. Symptoms of SFP can rapidly appear, in as little as half-an-hour after the consumption of contaminated food item (2). However, symptoms of Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning can also take up to five to six hours to develop.

Common Symptoms of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning are: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and nausea (2).

Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning is usually mild in nature and most of the patients are able to recover within one to three days.

Is Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning Contagious?

S. Aureus food poisoning is not at all contagious; that is, it cannot be passed from one person to another (2).

What Are The Foods That Are Easily Contaminated by Staphylococcus Aureus?

Foods products that need lot of handling and which are stored at room temperature commonly cause Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning and these food items are: puddings; sandwiches; cold salads, such as chicken, tuna, macaroni; cream-filled pastries and sliced deli meats.

How to Make the Diagnosis of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

In many patients suffering from Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning, medical attention is not needed. SFP typically resolves with rest and lots of fluids. However, if the Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning lasts for more than 3 days, then it is imperative to contact your doctor. Also, if you are not able to keep down fluids or drink sufficient fluids to prevent dehydration, then visit the nearest ER immediately.

A physical examination of the patient along with medical history is sufficient to diagnose Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning. The doctor will also ask questions about the food products consumed and may order blood tests or a stool culture if the symptoms are severe.

These tests helps in definitive diagnosis, as they will confirm the presence of Staphylococcus Aureus in the body and also help exclude other causes.

How is Staphylococcus Aureus Poisoning Treated?

Like mentioned before, most of the cases of Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning resolve in 1 to 2 days and do not need treatment (2). Treatment typically involves rest and increased fluid intake (2). However, patients who are unable to take fluids or whose symptoms continue beyond 3 days should seek medical help.

Emergent medical attention is needed for patients with Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning in babies, young children, older adults and patients having HIV.

What are the Complications of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

Dehydration is the most common complication of Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning. Treatment for this consists of intravenous liquids and in severe cases, hospitalization for observation and to prevent further complications (2).

What is the Prognosis of Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

Healthy people who contract Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning have excellent prognosis, as they do not suffer from long-term effects from this condition.

However, for older adults, children and for people with weak immune systems, they will experience acute dehydration that needs treatment and even hospitalization; as Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning can be life threatening in these patients. A full recovery can be made only if treatment is started immediately.

How to Prevent Staphylococcus Aureus Food Poisoning?

For prevention of Staphylococcus Aureus food poisoning, the following precautions need to be undertaken:

  • Wash hands and fingernails thoroughly before eating, cooking or serving food.
  • Do not use or drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Store cold foods under 40˚F (4˚C) and hot foods at temperatures over 140˚F (60˚C).
  • Make sure to sanitize and clean the surfaces where you prepare food.

If you have open sores or wounds on your wrists and hands, then never prepare food for others.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 9, 2020

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