Yersiniosis Fact Sheet

Last Reviewed: March 2023

What is yersiniosis?

Yersiniosis is a bacterial disease that generally affects the intestinal tract (bowels) usually caused by the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis (note: these are different from Yersinia pestis which causes the illness plague). It is a relatively uncommon disease causing an estimated 117,000 illnesses in the United States each year. Most people become infected by eating contaminated food or through contact with a person who has prepared a contaminated food product.

Who gets yersiniosis?

Any person can get yersiniosis.

How is yersiniosis spread?

Yersiniosis is most often spread to people when they eat contaminated food or through contact with someone who handled infected food products. It is also spread to humans by drinking contaminated water or unpasteurized milk, touching contaminated feces, or less commonly, by contact with an infected person or animal. Infected people can spread the bacteria in their feces (poop) during the time they have diarrhea and sometimes for a few weeks or months afterward. Some previous outbreaks of yersiniosis have been linked to pork products, pasteurized and unpasteurized milk, and tofu.

What are the symptoms of yersiniosis and when do they appear?

Infected people may experience mild or severe diarrhea, which is often bloody, fever, and abdominal cramps. Sometimes Yersinia infection resembles appendicitis, particularly in adults and older children. Rarely yersiniosis will cause skin rash, joint pain, or blood stream infections. Symptoms generally appear three to seven days after exposure.

How is yersiniosis diagnosed?

Yersiniosis is typically diagnosed by testing a stool sample for Yersinia bacteria.

How is yersiniosis treated?

Most infected people recover on their own without treatment. Those with severe symptoms or bloodstream infections are generally treated with antibiotics.

Does past infection with yersiniosis make a person immune?

No, past infection does not make a person immune. A person can become reinfected with Yersinia after a past infection.

What can be done to prevent the spread of yersiniosis?

Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats. Use appropriate precautions when handling meat products to avoid cross contamination from raw foods to cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Thoroughly wash food contact surfaces and hands before and after food preparation. Avoid drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk and improperly treated surface water. Food handlers should not work while ill with yersiniosis.