What is it?

Yersiniosis is an infectious disease caused by Yersinia bacteria.

How is it spread?

You can become ill with yersiniosis by eating contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork products, drinking contaminated unpasteurized milk or drinking untreated water. The preparation of raw pork intestines may be particularly risky. Infants can be infected if their caretakers handle raw chitterlings and then do not adequately clean their hands before handling the infant or the infant’s belongings.

Occasionally yersinia infection results from contact with infected animals. It can also be transmitted after the bacterium passes from the stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person due to poor basic hygiene and handwashing habits.

What are the symptoms?

Yersiniosis can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the age of the person infected.  Children commonly have fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Symptoms typically develop four to seven days after exposure and may last one to three weeks or longer.

Older children and adults may experience right-sided abdominal pain and fever, which can be confused with appendicitis. In a small number of cases, complications such as skin rash, joint pain, or spread of bacteria to the bloodstream can occur.

Who is at risk?

Yersiniosis occurs most often in young children, but anyone who comes in contact with the bacteria can get sick.

How is it treated?

Diarrhea due to yersiniosis usually resolves on its own without treatment. Anyone with diarrhea, especially seniors, children and those with weakened immune systems, should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In more severe or complicated yersinia infections, antibiotics may be useful.

How can it be prevented?

Yersiniosis can be prevented by practicing proper hygiene and safe food handling.

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked pork.
  • Consume only pasteurized milk or milk products.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water before eating and preparing food, after contact with animals, and after handling raw meat.
  • After handling raw pork intestines, thoroughly clean hands and fingernails with soap and warm water before touching infants or their toys. Someone other than the food handler should care for children while chitterlings are being prepared.
  • Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by using separate cutting boards for meat and other foods. Clean and disinfect all cutting boards, counters, and utensils after preparing raw meat.
  • Dispose of animal feces in a sanitary manner.

Related links

Centers for Disease Control – Yersinia