Yersiniosis is a relatively uncommon infection contracted through the consumption
of undercooked meat products (especially pork), unpasteurized milk, or contaminated
Usually, someone with an infection caused by Yersinia bacteria recovers
within a few days without medical treatment (in some cases, doctors prescribe antibiotics).
Of the three main types of yersiniosis that affect people, Yersinia enterocolitica
(bacteria that thrive in cooler temperatures) are responsible for most infections
in the United States. The infection seems to be more common in cooler climates.
The bacteria can infect the digestive tracts of humans, cats, dogs, pigs, cattle,
and goats. People can contract it by eating or handling contaminated foods (such as
raw or undercooked meat) or by drinking untreated water or unpasteurized milk that
contain the bacteria.
An infant can be infected if a parent or caretaker handles contaminated food without
cleaning up adequately before handling the baby's toys, bottles, or pacifiers.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of yersiniosis appear 4–7 days after exposure and can last up to
3 weeks. They include fever,
stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.
Sometimes, older kids also get pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, which
can mimic appendicitis.
Some people also have a sore throat along with other symptoms.
If your child has these symptoms, call your doctor. For infants, it's particularly
important to call the doctor as soon as symptoms appear to prevent the infection from
leading to other health problems.
In rare cases, the infection can cause a skin rash called erythema nodosum,
or joint pain that appears a month after the initial symptoms. The rash usually appears
on the legs and trunk. The joint pain is usually in the larger joints and is thought
to be due to an immune system response. These symptoms usually go away with time but
can last several months.
The diagnosis of Yersinia can be confirmed with a stool culture. If the
Yersinia infection leads to an infection of the blood, known as bacteremia,
it can be confirmed with a blood culture.
Diarrhea caused by yersiniosis generally goes away on its own, though in some cases
antibiotics are prescribed. In infants, however — particularly those who are
3 months old or younger — it can develop into bacteremia. Infants who contract
yersiniosis are usually treated in a hospital.
Depending on the severity of the diarrhea, your doctor may suggest modifying your
child's diet for 1 or 2 days and encouraging your child to drink more fluids (which
may include drinks with electrolytes to replace body fluids quickly).
If your child has frequent bouts of diarrhea, watch for signs of dehydration,
dry mouth or tongue
not peeing as often as usual
in infants, a dry diaper for several hours
no tears when crying
To reduce the risk of yersiniosis, take these precautions:
Don't serve or eat raw or undercooked meat.
Drink and serve only pasteurized milk and milk products.
with soap and water particularly before eating and preparing food; before touching
infants or their toys, bottles, or pacifiers; and after contact with animals or handling
Use separate cutting boards for meat and other foods.
Clean all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after
preparing raw meat.
Always cook meat thoroughly before you eat it, especially pork products.
Dispose of animal feces and sanitize anything they have touched.
Avoid drinking directly from natural water sources such as ponds and mountain
streams, particularly if the water is near farmland where cattle, pigs, or goats are
As you care for a family member who has diarrhea, remember to wash your hands
thoroughly before touching other people and before handling food.
If your pet dog or cat has diarrhea, wash your hands frequently as you care for
it, and check with your veterinarian about treatment and/or contagiousness.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if your child:
has diarrhea streaked with blood
has abdominal pain
has a fever
With some rest, kids with yersiniosis usually make a full recovery quickly.