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MPI investigating source of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis

7 October 2014

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has been notified by Environmental Science and Research of a cluster of human illnesses linked to the bacteria Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

While cases are reported each year, there has been an increase in cases, mainly in Christchuch, Wellngton and Auckland, but reports have also come from the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Otago/Southland.

There is a total of 101 confirmed cases and 41 presumptive (suspected but yet to confirmed) nationwide. A total of 38 people have been hospitalised.

The increase has been observed since mid-August with the majority of confirmed cases occurring in September.

Yersinia pseudotuberculosis causes stomach cramps and can present symptoms that mimic appendicitis. Diarrhoea can occur but is rare. It has a 3 to 21 day incubation period.

MPI is working to determine the source of the outbreak.

At this stage, the source has not yet been identified, but Yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreaks overseas have been linked to contaminated fresh vegetables and fruit, contaminated water and animal contact.

We believe there is a credible link that food is the likely source, but it is too early to be certain about the source of this pathogen and direct people away from foods that have no proven risk for consumers.

The people who have become ill with Yersenia have been interviewed on what foods they have been eating and this information has been cross-referenced, giving us sources to investigate further.

It is important to note that MPI’s investigation is over a range of foods.

Person to person spread is uncommon.

ADVICE FOR CONSUMERS

Yersinia pseudotuberculosis causes stomach cramps and can present symptoms that mimic appendicitis. Diarrhoea can occur but is rare. It has a 3 to 21 day incubation period.

Please apply normal food safety practice. If it looks off or smells off, throw it out. Otherwise keep fresh food chilled and wash fruit and vegetables before eating.

See your doctor, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice if you think you might have symptoms.

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