March 1998

Media Contacts: Holly Korschun, 404/727-3990 --,
Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -
Bob Harty, Georgia Tech, 404/894-0870

ATLANTA--A year-long surveillance of clinical laboratories in five states, including Georgia, revealed considerable geographic and racial variation in the incidence of Yersinia Enterocolitica infection, an acute infection of the intestinal tract primarily affecting children. Y. enterocolitica (YE) is spread through contaminated food or water, particularly raw pork or pork products, or from infected people or animals. Results of the research were presented in Atlanta on March 9 at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The study, conducted in 1996, was led by Emory University infectious diseases specialists Susan Ray, M.D., and Monica Farley, M.D., through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infections Program (EIP), Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FOODNET). Within the surveillance area, which included EIP's in Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, California and Connecticut, researchers identified 149 cases of YE. The infection was much more common among black, Hispanic, and Asian populations and in children less than 12 months of age. Although the overall incidence of YE infection was only .98/100,000, the rates were higher in younger age groups (28.6/100,000 in children less than 12 months and 3.0/100,000 in children ages 1 to 6) and in non-whites (3.98/100,000 in blacks; 1.68 in Asians, 0.96 in Hispanics and 0.42 in whites). The incidence was highest in black children less than 12 months of age (166.5/100,000). Atlanta and metropolitan Hartford, Conn., had the highest incidence of YE infection within the surveyed areas. Only 38.9% of the stool cultures included in the survey were processed by laboratories that routinely screen all stool samples for YE. The researchers concluded that Yersinia cultures should be part of routine diarrhea workups by laboratories serving at-risk populations.


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