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Is Staph Infection Contagious?

Is Staph Infection Contagious?

Yes, staph infections are highly contagious. Know how such infections spread from person to person, and how can they be detected and prevented, from this article.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Apr 7, 2018
Staph is short for Staphylococcus - a group of bacteria that 20%-30% people generally carry in their nose, and other areas including the mouth, genitals and anus. As long as these bacteria live on the skin, they do not cause any trouble. But they may enter the body through a damaged area in the skin (cut, bruise, scratch, etc.), and cause a full-blown infection.

There are over 30 species of staph, but it is the Staphylococcus aureus species that is responsible for most staph infections in humans.

How Are Staph Infections Transmitted?
Direct Contact - You can contract a staph infection if you come in contact with a weeping or draining wound of a person suffering from the infection. The pus in the wound contains the staph bacteria, which are responsible for spreading the infection.

Indirect Contact
- Given their hardiness, staph bacteria can survive outside their human host for days. So, sharing items with an ill person, or coming in contact with contaminated articles, can also get you infected.

Who Are at Risk?
People with weakened immune systems, chronic medical conditions or those who are hospitalized are more susceptible to staph infections. Also, the infection is more likely to affect people in college dorms, schools, correctional facilities, gyms, and kids in day care centers. In such settings, the transmission rate of such infections is usually high.

Appearance of Symptoms
After a person contracts a staph infection, it may take 1-10 days before he/she shows any symptoms. In some cases, the infection may not cause any symptoms at all. But whether or not an infected person shows any symptoms, he/she is still contagious and can pass the infection to others.

What Indicates the Infection?
General symptoms that may indicate a staph infection include the following.

  • A pimple-like bump that is red, swollen, and warm to touch
  • There may be a cluster of such bumps
  • The bump may get filled with pus
  • Sores in the infected site that emit pus
  • The infected area is painful
  • Nausea
  • If the following symptoms occur besides the ones mentioned above, they must be reported to a doctor.
  • High fever
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain that occurs when coughing
  • Confusion
  • Rash on the palms
  • Seizures

Preventive Measures
  • Any cut, bruise, scratch, etc. on the skin must be cleaned, covered, and kept dry.
  • If you have a staph infection, then clean the pus with a clean cloth, and wash the infected area with antibacterial soap. Pat dry the area, and keep it covered with a dry, sterile bandage, until it heals. This will not only keep the infection from spreading to other areas in the body, but to other people, as well. While cleaning an infected area, use a cloth only once, and get it washed thoroughly in hot water.
  • Avoid sharing items with someone who has a staph infection. If the person is someone in your household, then ensure that his/her towel, bed sheets, clothes, etc. are washed separately or disinfected, until the infection has cleared up.
  • Sometimes you may come in contact with an open wound or contaminated items of an infected person. In such cases, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Use warm water whenever possible.
  • While using a common washbasin or washroom at your workplace or a public place, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 62% alcohol. 
Staph infections are generally treated with antibiotics. However, to determine which antibiotic would suit you best, your doctor would carry out some tests to confirm the type of your infection. If you have a chronic condition or a compromised immune system, then you may have to exercise extra precautions to prevent such infections.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.