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Yersinia in food


What is Yersinia?

Yersinia is a bacterium that can be found in the gut of pets, livestock and wild animals.

What illness does it cause?

Yersiniosis (a type of gastroenteritis). This illness is a notifiable disease and must be reported to health authorities in all states and territories except NSW and Victoria.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include fever, diarrhoea (often containing blood in young children) and abdominal pain. Symptoms similar to appendicitis can be present in older children and adults and some adults also experience joint pain.

Symptoms usually start 4-7 days after a person becomes infected (e.g. after eating contaminated food). Most people are sick for one to three weeks, but sometimes for longer.

Who can get sick?

Anyone can get yersiniosis but it is more common in young children.

Where does it come from?

Yersinia can get into soil, water and food from the faeces (poo) of animals, for example from contact with grazing animals or animal manure fertiliser.

Common foods that can be contaminated with Yersinia include meat, pork, unpasteurised milk and raw vegetables.

How can people get sick?

  • By eating contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork
  • Through contact with a person who has prepared a contaminated pork product
  • By drinking contaminated milk or untreated water
  • By bacteria on cooking equipment or hands being transferred to food that is ready to eat (won’t be further cooked)
  • By a person transferring bacteria to food, usually by hands that have not been properly washed

How can illness be prevented?

  • Keep hands and equipment clean – wash hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food, especially after contact with animals or their environments
  • Avoid cross contamination – for example, use separate cutting boards and knives for raw and ready-to-eat food, and store cooked food separately from raw foods
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked pork
  • Only drink milk that has been pasteurised


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