While there are more than 30 types of infection-causing staph bacteria, most staph infections are caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of the adult population is thought to have Staphylococcus bacteria on their skin or in their noses. While normal immune defenses usually prevent staph infections, it is possible for very serious conditions to arise when staph infections occur.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
One of the dangers that staph infections pose, particularly to women, is called toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome is caused by the toxin secretion of staph bacteria when there is there limited oxygen or an absence of oxygen. The condition begins with a high fever, vomiting, aches and diarrhea. This is typically followed by a dramatic drop in blood pressure which can cause shock and, in severe instances, death. This is most common among women that use tampons during menstruation.
Staph-based food poisoning is caused by eating food that has been contaminated by toxins secreted by staph bacteria. This is typically caused by food which has been improperly handled, prepared or stored. The toxins affect the bowels and symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration and vomiting. Symptoms generally develop within six hours and normally last for one to three days before the body recovers. Food poisoning cannot be spread from another person.
Scalded Skin Syndrome
Staph infections typically occur when there is damage to the skin and the bacteria infects the damaged area. The infection normally causes moderate inflammation in a localized area. In some severe cases, however, scalded skin syndrome can occur. In this condition, the layers of skin begin to come apart and the top layer is often lost. If left untreated, this condition can result in death, much as if large areas of skin had been burned.
MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a potentially fatal situation. MRSA strains do not respond to treatment with standard antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin. This can lead to infections of the blood or the bones, which are difficult or impossible to treat and may lead to death. These infections are most common in medical settings and are generally passed by direct physical contact with someone that carries MRSA bacteria.
When staph infections move into the body, there are a variety of conditions that can develop. If staph infects the valves of the heart, it can cause a condition known as endocarditis which can cause heart failure. Staph can also cause a type of pneumonia, which can develop deadly complications. Another risk associated with staph is the possibility of sepsis, an infection of the blood by staph bacteria that has spread throughout the body and a common cause of death for burn victims.