Staphylococcal Food Poisoning

Staphylococcal Food Poisoning is an illness caused by a toxin (enterotoxin) produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria resulting in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The toxin is produced by the bacteria in food left out at room temperature for hours after cooking. It is common in diary and meat products. The toxin is heat resistant and cooking food again does not seem to prevent disease

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by eating food containing the Staphylococcal toxin; commonly in dairy products like salad dressings, mayonnaise, custards, pastries and processed meats. Food left out for hours like in a picnic setting is a common source of infection.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

There is a moderate risk for travelers who frequently eat at buffets, etc.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 2-6 hours after ingestion but can be seen as early as 30 minutes after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms usually occur suddenly with increased salivation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Symptoms may include low body temperature and blood pressure. Recovery occurs in 1-2 days as the toxin is excreted from the body.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is supportive with fluids.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose illness?

The Staphylococcal bacteria and toxin can be isolated from particular food items that are suspected as well as from stool or vomitus.

What preventive measures can be taken?

One can prevent the likelihood of infection by avoiding food that has been left setting at room temperature for a prolonged time (> 2-3 hours).

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