If you’re wondering if staph infections are contagious, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Certain staph infections are contagious, while some are not. Keep on reading to learn the distinction between contagious and noncontagious staph infections.
Staphylococcal Skin Infections Are Generally Contagious
Staph skin infections can become contagious if they are touched directly by someone else, or if the wound/opening comes into contact with surfaces and objects. Below are a few examples of contagious staph infections you should be aware of:
• Pink Eye
Pink eye is a common staph disease characterized by red, inflamed eyes. Eye discharge that may be thick or watery is also a classic symptom of this condition.
Typically, pink eye occurs when you touch an infected object or surface and then touch your eyes afterwards, causing the bacteria to infect your eye’s mucous membranes. If proper hygiene is not practiced, the bacteria can transfer to other people’s eyes and create an outbreak.1
Impetigo occurs when staph bacteria enter your skin through a small wound or cut, causing red sores to develop, typically on the face, nose or your limbs. As the sores expand, crusting and blisters may appear on the skin. This condition is highly contagious, even up to 48 hours after treatment.
Should you develop impetigo, it’s recommended that you cover your spots with bandages to prevent the bacteria from spreading to others.2
Most cases of folliculitis are benign and noncontagious. But if you’re not careful, you may be able to spread the infection to others through direct skin-to-skin contact. Other possible ways for the bacteria to spread are through a hot tub, Jacuzzi or swimming pool. It’s recommended that you refrain from participating in activities that require direct contact with people until the infection has healed.3
• Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a stronger variation of staph bacteria that’s immune to antibiotics. It is highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person, even if it doesn’t cause a disease. Depending on where the bacteria land, they can cause various skin infections. They may even penetrate your skin and cause a serious and invasive bacterial infection.4
Invasive Staph Infections Have a Low Chance of Being Contagious
Staph bacteria can easily spread around your surroundings, but not every disease they create is contagious. For example, endocarditis, which is a bacterial inflammation of your inner heart walls, is not contagious, as the bacteria tend to center around your heart only.5 And since the disease is found inside your body, there’s virtually no way you can spread the same disease to other people.
Another example is septic arthritis. Similar to endocarditis, septic arthritis is a bacterial inflammation, but targets a joint instead. Since the bacteria are grouped together in a joint, there’s very little chance you can spread arthritis to another person.6 As a general rule, invasive staph infections are not contagious because the bacteria target a specific location inside your body. However, be aware that the pathogens that can cause these invasive infections are still contagious and may cause other diseases.