Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph aureus) is a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin and hair as well as in the noses and throats of people and animals. These bacteria are present in up to 25 percent of healthy people and are even more common among those with skin, eye, nose, or throat infections.

 can cause food poisoning when a food handler contaminates food and then the food is not properly refrigerated. Other sources of food contamination include the equipment and surfaces on which food is prepared. These bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature to produce a toxin that causes illness. Staphylococcus is killed by cooking and pasteurization.


Foods that are made with hand contact and require no additional cooking, such as:

  • Salads, such as ham, egg, tuna, chicken, potato, and macaroni
  • Bakery products, such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate éclairs
  • Sandwiches

Other sources include milk and dairy products, as well as meat, poultry, eggs, and related products.

Incubation Period

1-6 hours


Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe abdominal cramps, mild fever

Duration of Illness

24-48 hours

What Do I Do?

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. If you cannot drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, call your doctor.

How Can I Prevent Illness?

  • Wash hands and under fingernails vigorously with soap and water before handling and preparing food.
  • Do not prepare food if you have a nose or eye infection.
  • Do not prepare or serve food for others if you have wounds or skin infections on your hands or wrists.
  • Keep kitchens and food-serving areas clean and sanitized.
  • If food is prepared more than two hours before serving, keep hot foods hot (over 140° F) and cold foods cold (40° F or under).
  • Store cooked food in a wide, shallow container and refrigerate as soon as possible.



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