Yersiniosis

Yersiniosis is an infection that is caused by the bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica or Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

How it is 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 and in some cases, a sore throat. In older children and adults yersiniosis can sometimes mimic appendicitis. Joint pain or arthritis can occur a few weeks later in about half of adult cases.

Infectious period

It is 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 2-3 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 do not 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 doing the following:

  • do not eat raw or undercooked pork 
  • after handling raw pork, clean hands and fingernails with soap and water before touching infants or their toys, bottles or pacifiers
  • wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with animals, particularly pigs
  • avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate and use separate knives, utensils and equipment
  • keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean and wash immediately after handling raw meat or poultry
  • only drink pasteurised milk or milk products.

How it can be controlled

Anyone with diarrhoea should not attend childcare/school until 24hrs after their last loose bowel motion. Food handlers should not return to work until 48 hours after diarrhoea has ceased.

Anyone with diarrhoea should not swim, wade or paddle in public pools.

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 foodhandlers, 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: 27 June 2017