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What is yersiniosis?

Yersiniosis is an uncommon type of food poisoning that can cause severe illness.

How does it occur?

The infection is caused by a type of bacteria called Yersinia. You may get the infection if:

  • You eat contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork.
  • You drink unpasteurized milk or untreated water, such as well water.
  • You have contact with an infected animal.

The time between exposure to the infection and illness is usually 3 to 7 days.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • stomach pain, especially on the right side
  • fever
  • diarrhea, which may be bloody
  • vomiting.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • swollen or painful joints
  • redness and painful lumps on the lower part of the legs.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. A sample of bowel movement will be tested in the lab.

How is it treated?

Diarrhea caused by Yersinia often gets better without treatment. Your provider will prescribe an antibiotic if you are having more severe symptoms or if your symptoms are not getting better. Make sure that you take all of your medicine as prescribed, even after you start feeling better.

Until you have completely recovered:

  • Avoid contact with others and practice good hand washing.
  • Rest and limit your activities until fever and other symptoms are gone.

How long do the effects last?

How long the symptoms last varies from person to person. In most cases you will be better in a few days.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Follow the treatment your healthcare provider prescribes.
  • For fever:
    • Ask your provider if you can take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to help control fever and aches.
      • Check with your provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
      • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
    • If you have a temperature over 100°F (37.8°C), rest as much as you can. After your temperature falls below 100°F (37.8°C), some activity is OK if you are not dehydrated. Keep a record of your temperature if it’s 100°F (37.8°C) or greater.
  • For diarrhea:
    • You may want to let your bowel rest for a few hours by drinking only clear liquids. Examples of clear liquids are water, weak tea, broth, apple or grape juice, or sports drinks and other oral rehydration drinks. You may also drink soft drinks without caffeine, such as 7 UP. Let sodas lose some of their carbonation (go flat) before you drink them. Make sure you drink small amounts often so that you do not get dehydrated. Not getting enough fluids to replace the fluids your body is losing while you are sick can be very dangerous. This is especially true for children, older adults, and some people who have other medical problems. Suck on ice chips or Popsicles if you feel too nauseated to drink fluids.
    • It’s OK to keep eating as long as it does not seem to make diarrhea or stomach cramps get worse. Foods that are easiest to digest are bananas, cooked cereal, rice, plain noodles, eggs, gelatin, toast or bread, crackers, cooked potatoes and carrots, and applesauce. Don’t add butter or margarine to these foods. Avoid milk products and caffeine for a few days.
    • You can go back to your normal diet after 2 or 3 days, but for several days avoid fresh fruit (other than bananas), alcohol, greasy or fatty foods such as cheeseburgers or bacon, or highly seasoned or spicy foods. Also avoid most fresh vegetables. It’s OK to eat cooked carrots, potatoes, and squash. If eating seems to make the diarrhea worse, let your bowel rest for a few hours by drinking just clear liquids. Then again try small amounts of the foods that are easy to digest.
  • If you have cramps or stomach pain, it may help to put a hot water bottle or electric heating pad on your stomach. Cover the hot water bottle with a towel or set the heating pad on low to prevent burns.
  • Be cautious about taking antidiarrheal medicines. Nonprescription medicines such as loperamide (sold as Imodium and other trade names) or the prescription medicine Lomotil can make you sicker, especially if your diarrhea is bloody. If you take one of these medicines, make sure you use only the dose recommended on the package. If you have chronic health problems, check with your healthcare provider before you use any medicine for diarrhea.

What can I do to help prevent yersiniosis?

To keep from getting yersiniosis:

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked pork.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk or milk products.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and preparing food, after contact with animals, and after handling raw meat.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meat and other foods. Carefully clean all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw meat.
  • Dispose of animal droppings in a sanitary manner. That is, put them in a closed plastic bag and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

To prevent spreading yersiniosis when you are already infected, keep washing your hands carefully and often for several months after your illness. The bacteria may be in your bowel movements for several weeks or months.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-05
Last reviewed: 2011-01-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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