Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria found all throughout the body, including on the skin, nose, and throat, of both humans and animals. The bacteria are almost always present, but can be more prevalent in those with infections of the nose, ears, and throat. It is not always pathogenic, but can be a cause of food poisoning along with other skin infections.
Staph can cause food poisoning as a result of someone carrying the bacteria touching food, and then that food not being stored properly. Bacteria thrive in food that is left out too long. Once the bacteria gets on the food, at room temperature, it multiplies quickly to produce a toxin that causes illness. Cooking typically kills the bacteria, but consuming food that was cooked, infected, and then not reheated to the proper temperatures may spread the illness.
Bakery products, salads, and sandwiches, all food that is typically prepared and then not heated, are common carriers of staph. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe abdominal cramps, and mild fever are the typical symptoms.
Like most foodborne illness, staph clears up with plenty of fluids and rest. The symptoms should be treated on an individual level, which can be further examined via the Center for Disease Control. Other prevention methods can be taken to ensure the illness does not spread:
Wash hands before handling any type of food.
Do not prepare food if you are already sick, namely with any infection of the eyes, ears, or nose.
Keep food preparation areas properly sanitized.
Properly heat food before serving.
If food is to be kept after cooking, always store it properly, preferably in a refrigerator.
While staph is not always serious, the individual symptoms can lead to more serious complications. For more information on treating individual symptoms, foods to avoid, and steering clear of the disease, consult such sources as FoodSafety.gov.