Yersiniosis

Yersiniosis is an infection that is caused by 2 bacterium:

  • Yersinia enterocolitica
  • Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

How it can spread

Spread can occur by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the Yersinia bacteria, especially raw or undercooked pork products.

The environment may be contaminated by a range of animals, but pigs are considered to be the main source of human infection.

Symptoms

The symptoms usually develop between 3 to 7 days after infection.

Symptoms include:

  • diarrhoea (sometimes with blood, especially in infants)
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • sore throat (in some cases).

In older children and adults, yersiniosis can sometimes mimic appendicitis. Joint pain or arthritis can also occur a few weeks later in about half of adult cases.

Infectious period

It's rare for the yersiniosis infection to be passed on to others.

Bacteria will usually be present in faeces for 2 to 3 weeks after diarrhoea commences, but may be shed in the faeces for 2 to 3 months.

Anyone with diarrhoea should not cook or prepare food for others.

People at risk

Anyone can get yersiniosis but most cases are seen in young children and people with exposures to pigs or pork.

Treatment

Antibiotics are usually required for severe or bloodstream infections. But they don't appear to change the course of the illness in mild cases.

Anyone with diarrhoea should drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration.

Children with diarrhoea, who vomit or who refuse extra fluids should see a doctor.

Anyone with prolonged or severe diarrhoea, or who has symptoms causing concern should see a doctor.

Medicines to prevent vomiting or diarrhoea should not be given, especially to children, except when prescribed by a doctor.

Prevention

You can help prevent yersiniosis by:

  • not eating raw or undercooked pork
  • washing your hands and fingernails thoroughly with soap and water after:
    • handling raw pork
    • contact with animals, particularly pigs
  • keeping raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate and using separate knives, utensils and equipment
  • keeping all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean and washing them immediately after handling raw meat or poultry
  • only drinking pasteurised milk or milk products.

How it can be controlled

Anyone with diarrhoea should not:

  • attend childcare or school until 24 hours after their last loose bowel motion
  • not swim, wade or paddle in public pools.

Food handlers should not return to work until 48 hours after diarrhoea has ceased.

Doctors and public health workers are interested in preventing outbreaks of diarrhoea.

If there are 2 or more cases of diarrhoea in a group or any cases in food handlers, these should be reported to the local Centre for Disease Control.

Contact

For more information, contact the Centre for Disease Control in your region.


Last updated: 18 August 2022

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