Staph aureus food poisoning

Staph aureus food poisoning


Staph aureus food poisoning is an illness that results from eating food contaminated with a toxin produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.


Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning is often caused when a food handler contaminates food products that are served or stored at room- or refrigerator temperature. Common examples of such foods are desserts (especially custards and cream filled- or topped desserts), salads (especially those containing mayonnaise), or baked goods.

The bacteria multiplies rapidly in the food, and a large colony of bacteria may be present without evidence of food spoilage. Risk factors include:

  • Ingestion of food prepared by a person with a skin infection (these infections commonly contain Staphylococcus aureus )
  • Ingestion of food kept at room temperature
  • Ingestion of improperly prepared food
  • Symptoms occurring in persons eating the same food.

Symptoms usually appear within 4 to 6 hours. The disease is common in the U.S.


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting for up to 24 hours
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal distention
  • Mild fever

Exams and Tests

A stool culture (if performed) is positive for Staph aureus.


The objective of treatment is to replace fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) lost by vomiting or diarrhea. Antidiarrheal medications are generally not needed.

Self-care measures to avoid dehydration

People with diarrhea who are unable to take fluids by mouth because of nausea or vomiting may need intravenous fluids. This is true especially for small children.

People taking diuretics ("water pills") may need to stop taking them during the acute episode. Ask your health care provider for instructions.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery is expected. Recovery usually occurs in 24 to 48 hours.

Possible Complications

Dehydration can develop.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if symptoms do not resolve in 48 hours, severe dehydration develops, blood in stools is noted, or if other new symptoms develop.


Wash the hands thoroughly before and after all food preparation. Food preparation implements should be thoroughly washed before they are used on other foods. Refrigerate meats and leftovers promptly. Food can become contaminated by juices from poultry and other meats.

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