Most people become infected by eating contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork, or through contact with a person who has prepared a pork product, such as chitlins. For example, babies and infants can be infected if their caretakers handle contaminated food and then do not wash their hands properly before handling the child or the child’s toys, bottles, or pacifiers. People occasionally become infected after drinking contaminated milk or untreated water, or after contact with infected animals or their feces. On rare occasions, people become infected through person-to-person contact. For example, caretakers can become infected if they do not wash their hands properly after changing the diaper of a child with yersiniosis. Even more rarely, people may become infected through contaminated blood during a transfusion.
The symptoms of yersiniosis depend on the age of the person infected. Infection occurs most often in young children. Common symptoms in children are fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Symptoms typically develop 4 to 7 days after exposure and may last 1 to 3 weeks or longer. In older children and adults, right-sided abdominal pain and fever may be the predominant symptoms and may be confused with appendicitis. Complications are rare, and may include skin rash, joint pains, or spread of bacteria to the bloodstream.
Most symptoms go away completely. However, some people may experience joint pain, called reactive arthritis, most commonly in the knees, ankles, or wrists. These joint pains usually develop about 1 month after yersiniosis illness begins and generally go away after 1 to 6 months. A skin rash, may also occur, called “erythema nodosum,” on the legs and torso. The rash is more common in women and usually goes away within a month (CDC)
- CDC. Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersiniosis) factsheet.
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