Skin Home > Who Gets Staph Infections and How Does Infection Occur?

Who Is at Risk for Staph Infections?

Many people who develop a Staphylococcus infection do not have any risk factors. However, there appear to be several factors that can increase a person's chances for developing an infection. Some include:
  • Trauma to the skin (such as cuts, sores, shaving, insect bites, or "turf burns")
  • Recent surgery
  • Shaving body hair
  • Living in crowded or unsanitary places, such as prisons, military barracks, or homeless shelters
  • People who use IV drugs or inject drugs into the muscle ("skin popping")
  • A recent long hospital stay
  • Recent antibiotic use
  • A weakened immune system from a medical condition, such as those with HIV, AIDS, or diabetes.
(Click Staph Infection Risk Factors for a complete list of risk factors.)

How Is a Staph Infection Transmitted?

Staph infections can be contagious. Transmission occurs between individuals through direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces that are contaminated with the bacteria, such as towels or used bandages.
Not everyone who has Staphylococcus will actually develop an infection. This is known as colonization. "Colonization" means that a person is carrying a specific type of bacteria but does not have any signs or symptoms of illness that this particular bacteria can cause.
A person colonized with Staphylococcus may also be called a staph "carrier." While they do not have any signs or symptoms of a staph infection, they can still infect others.
It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of the population is colonized with Staphylococcus bacteria, either on the skin or within the nose (the two most common areas). Up to 7 percent of people in hospitals and up to 2 percent of people in the community are colonized with MRSA.
(Click Staph Transmission to learn more about colonization and how Staphylococcus is spread.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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