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Yersinia Infection

Yesinia infection 

Yersiniosis is a fairly common bacterial infection of the intestines, and is caused by some species of the genus Yersinia. Some infections can mimic appendicitis. It is largely a food-borne illness, and can be prevented easily by practicing good food safety habits. Care around domestic animals to avoid fecal-oral infection will also help prevent this disease.     

Facts & Figures

 Information for Health Professionals

Yersinia are bacteria that infect the intestines. When a person gets sick from this infection it is called yersiniosis. Yersinia are a common cause of diarrhea in B.C. and the world. Over the past 10 years (1999 through 2008), an average of 770 infections per year were reported to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Yersinia may cause:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea 
  • fever
  • bloody diarrhea (often occurs in children)

Symptoms start an average of 3 to 7 days after exposure to the bacteria. In some cases, the infection is wrongly diagnosed as appendicitis. If you have severe cramps or severe diarrhea, see your doctor. Sometimes a person can be infected and have no symptoms.

Yersinia are spread by the fecal-oral route. Fecal material from infected humans or animals can get into our mouths by:

  • consuming contaminated food or drink
  • contact with the feces of infected humans that is not followed by proper hand washing
  • contact with the feces of domestic or wild animals, including pets and farm animals that is not followed by proper hand washing. Pets may also have fecal matter on their hair or fur that is transferred to our hands when we touch them.

Yersinia can live in the intestines of animals including pigs, cows, sheep, horses, dogs, cats, rodents and birds as well as humans. When animals are slaughtered and butchered for food, bacteria from an animal’s intestines may contaminate the meat that we consume. Common sources of infection are:

  • undercooked pork and other meats
  • unpasteurized (raw) milk, and
  • other contaminated food and water

During food preparation, bacteria can be transmitted from contaminated foods to other foods or surfaces in the kitchen. This is called cross-contamination. Sometimes this happens when to foods that are meant to be consumed uncooked, such as fresh fruits or vegetables. An example of this would be cutting raw meat on a cutting board and then cutting vegetables on the same board without washing and sanitizing the board in between. If the vegetables are eaten raw, the bacteria are not killed as they would be with cooking.

Drinking water can be contaminated if humans or animals leave their droppings (feces) in or near surface water sources such as streams, rivers, lakes or shallow wells and this water is not adequately treated.

Rarely, complications such as arthritis or a skin rash can occur. These are usually temporary.

yersinia infection is diagnosed by testing a stool sample.

Antibiotic treatment is usually not needed. Your doctor will decide if treatment is necessary in your case.  

If you think you have a yersinia infection, see your family doctor for testing, advice and treatment.

Children in day care who have diarrhea or vomiting can be cared for temporarily in an area separate from other children until picked up by their parents. To ensure proper hand washing, children in day cares should be supervised by an adult when washing their hands.

Be aware of the risks associated with the food products you buy and know how to prepare your food safely. Pork is most commonly associated with yersiniosis, but treat all raw meat as if it is contaminated and handle it accordingly. Handle and prepare food safely:

  • Keep raw meats well wrapped and on lower refrigerator shelves so blood does not drip onto other foods.
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold running water, not at room temperature. Refrigerate foods promptly.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meats. To ensure meats are cooked thoroughly use a meat thermometer and take the internal temperature of the meat by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. You must achieve a minimum internal temperature for red meats of 71º C (160º F). (Poultry must be cooked to 74º C [165º F].)
  • Avoid direct contact between raw meats and other uncooked foods. When cooking or barbequing, use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat. Use a separate cutting board for raw meats. If a second cutting board is unavailable, cut all other ingredients first before cutting raw meats.
  • Wash and sanitize items that do not go into the dishwasher such as cutting boards, utensils, counters, kitchen sinks and tap handles:

1) Wash with warm, soapy water. 
2) Rinse with warm, plain water. 
3) Sanitize with a mild bleach solution – one teaspoon (5 mls) of bleach per quart (litre) of water. 
4) Immerse items in the solution or spray solution onto surfaces and soak for at least two minutes to kill any bacteria.

Other ways to prevent infection:


  1. Before eating 
  2. Before handling food
  3.  Immediately after handling raw poultry or meat, and 
  4. before touching anything else after using the toilet or changing diapers, and
  5.  after touching animals

If your local drinking water provider has issued a Boil Water Notice for your community, take the advice seriously.

Do not drink untreated surface water from a spring, stream, river, lake, pond or shallow well. Assume it is contaminated with animal feces. Boil or disinfect water from these sources that is used for:

  1. drinking, 
  2. making ice cubes, 
  3. washing uncooked fruits and vegetables,
  4.  making baby formula, 
  5. brushing teeth, and 
  6. washing dentures. 

Boil water for at least 1 minute at a rolling boil. At elevations above 2000 m (6562 ft), boil for at least 2 minutes. 

Or, disinfect water using 1 drop of bleach per litre of water. Shake and allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking. 

Make sure children, particularly those who handle pets, wash their hands carefully before eating and on a regular basis if they suck their thumbs or put their hands in their mouths. Do not allow young children or those who have compromised immune systems to handle chicks, ducklings or reptile pets. 

If a trip to a petting zoo or farm is planned, please see the Health File Petting Zoo and Open Farm Visits at HealthLink BC. 

Yersinia is passed in the feces; therefore people with diarrhea that could be due to an infection should not go to school or work if they are in a high risk setting such as caring for people or preparing food. If you are a food handler, health care worker or work in or attend a day care, it is possible for you to transmit yersinia to others in these settings. Do not work while you have diarrhea or vomiting and do not return to work or day care until 48 hours after your last loose stool or episode of vomiting. This time period will ensure you have a chance to recover and lessen the possibility of transmitting the infection to others. See the guideline entitled Exclusion of Enteric Cases and their Contacts from HIgh Risk Settings in the BCCDC Communicable Disease Control Manual. 


Last Updated: March 15, 2012

SOURCE: Yersinia Infection ( )
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