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Yersiniosis is a rare infectious disease that causes bacterial gastroenteritis. Symptoms vary according to the age of the infected person. It mostly affects young children, predominantly those under age 12 months. Yersiniosis occurs more frequently in cooler climates. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 17,000 cases occur in the United States each year. The disease is more common in Japan, Scandinavia, and Europe.
Yersinia enterocolitica, a rod-shaped bacterium, causes yersiniosis. Pigs are a reservoir for some strains of this bacterium, with other strains being found in rodents, rabbits, sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, and cats. Transmission is through ingestion of contaminated food, especially raw or undercooked pork products, including chitterlings (pig intestines), as well as tofu, meats, oysters, and fish. It may also be transmitted after handling contaminated food, not cleaning the hands properly, and then touching toys, bottles, or pacifiers. Transmission may also occur through drinking contaminated unpasteurized milk or untreated water. Rarely, yersiniosis can be transmitted by the fecal-oral route as a result of poor handwashing after defecation. Blood trans-fusion can cause direct inoculation of the bacteria.
The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) conducts investigations of yersiniosis outbreaks. Their results are also monitored by the CDC. Together, FoodNet and the CDC look for ways to control and prevent outbreaks. An educational campaign has been instituted to increase awareness of preventive measures the public can follow to prevent Y. enterocolitica infection.
Other U.S. government agencies that monitor food safety include the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects imported food and milk pasteurization plants; the Department of Agriculture, which monitors the health of food animals and the quality of slaughtered and processed meat; and the Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors the safety of drinking water.