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Yersiniosis

Yersiniosis is a relatively uncommon infection contracted through the consumption of undercooked meat products (especially pork), unpasteurized milk, or contaminated water.

Usually, someone with an infection caused by Yersinia bacteria recovers within a few days without medical treatment (in some cases, doctors prescribe antibiotics).

About Yersiniosis

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.

Body Basics: Digestive System

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 occurs 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 typically 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.

Treatment

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, including:

Prevention

To reduce the risk of yersiniosis, take these precautions:

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if your child:

With some rest, kids with yersiniosis usually make a full recovery quickly.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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