Yersiniosis is a gastrointestinal disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica or Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Symptoms often include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain, and may include mesenteric lymphadenitis that mimics appendicitis.
The disease is relatively uncommon, with approximately 35 cases being reported in Wisconsin annually. Yersiniosis usually occurs as a single, isolated event; however, occasional outbreaks have been reported due to a common exposure.
How do people get yersiniosis?
Most people become infected by eating contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork, or through contact with a person who has prepared a pork product, such as chitlins. For example, babies and infants can be infected if their caretakers handle contaminated food and then do not wash their hands properly before handling the child or the child’s toys, bottles, or pacifiers.
People occasionally become infected after drinking contaminated milk or untreated water, or after contact with infected animals or their feces.
On rare occasions, people become infected through person-to-person contact. For example, caretakers can become infected if they do not wash their hands properly after changing the diaper of a child with yersiniosis.
Even more rarely, people may become infected through contaminated blood during a transfusion
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of yersiniosis depend on the age of the person infected. Infection occurs most often in young children. Common symptoms in children are fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Symptoms typically develop 4 to 7 days after exposure and may last 1 to 3 weeks or longer. In older children and adults, right-sided abdominal pain and fever may be the predominant symptoms and may be confused with appendicitis. Complications are rare, and may include skin rash, joint pains, or spread of bacteria to the bloodstream.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Yersiniosis usually is diagnosed by detecting the bacteria in the stool of an infected person. Many laboratories do not routinely test for Yersinia, so it is important that the clinician notifies the laboratory when yersiniosis is suspected so that special tests can be done.
Yersiniosis usually goes away on its own without antibiotic treatment. However, antibiotics may be used to treat more severe or complicated infections.
To protect yourself and your family from yersiniosis:
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked pork.
- Consume only pasteurized milk and milk products, such as soft cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Find out about the dangers of raw milk.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and preparing food, after contact with animals, and after handling raw meat. See how handwashing can help keep you healthy.
- After handling raw chitlins, clean hands and fingernails carefully with soap and water before touching infants or their toys, bottles, or pacifiers. Someone other than the person handling food should care for children while chitlins are being prepared.
- Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by using one cutting board for raw meat and another cutting board for fresh produce. Carefully clean all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw meat. Learn four simple steps to food safety.
- Dispose of animal feces (poop) in a sanitary manner.
This is a Wisconsin disease surveillance category II disease:
- Report to the patient's local public health department electronically, through the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System (WEDSS), by mail or fax using an Acute and Communicable Disease case report, F-44151 (Word) or by other means within 72 hours upon recognition of a case.
- Information on communicable disease reporting
Wisconsin case reporting and public health follow-up guidelines:
- Case Reporting and Investigation Protocol (EpiNet): Yersiniosis, P-01881 (PDF)
- Wisconsin routine Enteric Follow-up Worksheet (PDF)
For testing information, please call:
Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene Clinical Customer Service – 800-862-1013
Questions about yersiniosis? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976