How Long is a Staph Infection Contagious?

By Isobel Washington

"Staph" is short for "Staphylococcus" in the context of staph infections. Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that causes infections, which are highly-contagious skin conditions. How long a staph infection is contagious depends on many factors that are mainly based on time, such as the how soon the condition is properly identified and diagnosed and how soon it is treated. Ceasing the contagiousness of staph infections requires following strict orders from a doctor, who can ensure that the infectious bacteria is gone.

...

"Staph" is short for "Staphylococcus" in the context of staph infections. Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that causes infections, which are highly-contagious skin conditions. How long a staph infection is contagious depends on many factors that are mainly based on time, such as the how soon the condition is properly identified and diagnosed and how soon it is treated. Ceasing the contagiousness of staph infections requires following strict orders from a doctor, who can ensure that the infectious bacteria is gone.

Staphylococci Bacteria

woman blowing nose

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, medical writer for MedicineNet.com, the staphylococci bacteria lives in the skin and nose of 20 to 30 percent of adults. In children, this bacteria is often found in the nose. Staphylococci bacteria can live harmlessly until it is aggravated by some wound or injury that punctures the skin, allowing it to move into the open wound where it causes infection. Over 30 types of the staphylococci bacteria cause a variety of illnesses, but it is the Staphylococcus aureus type that causes staph infections in the skin.

Contagiousness

child picking his nose

Staph infections are extremely contagious. The infectious bacteria spreads all too easily from person to person and even from people to animals and vice versa. Sometimes staph infections are not immediately identified as such, risking the transfer of bacteria. The infection transfers simply upon physical contact, either between body parts or from contact with any contaminated object with the skin. In public places such as pools and gyms, staph infections are usually spread by the feet, which track all over the floor and leave traces of infectious bacteria that can easily attach to the skin and feet of others. Children also easily spread staph infections by frequently touching their faces and sticking their fingers in their nose. This is why most staph infections occur on the face.

Identification and Symptoms

doctor checking rash

Staph infections appear in a variety of forms and varying degrees of intensity, but the first signs usually appear in the skin as small skin punctures that look like open wounds or red, swollen sores. The drainage of pus is common, and present another risk for the spread of the infection, as the drainage can get on clothes and bed linens. The staph infection cellulitus is bright red and painful. Typical infection forms are boils, or furnacles, which are abscesses in the skin; pus-filled red blisters at the hair follicles, called folliculitis; and crusted lesions and blisters on the skin's surface, called impetigo.

Treatment

woman putting cream on leg

Staph infections are diagnosed with cultures or blood samples. Doctors prescribe antibiotics and provide the patient with special topical creams that address the infection at the skin's surface. These creams often have an antiseptic agent that attempts to kill of the bacteria and stop it from spreading. It is crucial that the infected stay dry and clean, and that the patient is extremely cautious about washing his or her hands constantly and not sharing clothes or linens.

Staphaseptic is a popular over-the-counter wound treatment used to fight the bacteria of staph infections.

Ceasing Contagiousness

prescription and bottle

Doctors always recommend completing an entire antibiotic prescription, even if signs and symptoms of the condition seem to subside. While a staph infection may appear to be visibly improved, it is important to remember that the infection began with the invisible presence of the bacteria on the skin. Therefore, patients must complete antibiotic treatment and continuously apply topical anti-septic creams until it has been confirmed with a doctor that the infectious bacteria is no longer present. How long this might take depends on the degree of the infection. Typically, patients with mild infections are warned against public places, such as fitness facilities, for a minimum of two weeks until it is certain that the infectious bacteria will not spread. Patients should never make assumptions about the infections contagiousness and must consult a doctor to ensure the infection is no longer contagious.

References

About the Author

Isobel Washington has been a freelance journalist since 2007. Washington's work first surfaced in Europe, where she served as a restaurant critic and journalist for "LifeStyles" magazine. Her love of travel and culture inspired her first novel, which is currently underway. Washington has a 10-year career in marketing communication and holds a Bachelor of Science degree.

Related Articles

More Related