Source of New Zealand yersiniosis outbreak still unclear

| October 14, 2014 to press reports from New Zealand, public health and food safety authorities are continuing to investigate a suspected foodborne outbreak of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection, but have yet to identify its source.

A total of 127 cases of infection by this unusual pathogen have now been confirmed since mid-August and 38 people have been admitted to hospital. Most of the reported cases are in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, but other areas around the country are also affected.

Environmental and Scientific Research (ESR) has provided an update on its investigation into the source of the outbreak to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). According to press reports quoting MPI, ESR has identified a range of potential foods that could be associated with the outbreak, but has not identified a specific source.

However, other reports state that New Zealand supermarket operator Foodstuffs has confirmed that two products apparently named in the ESR report, Pam’s Fresh Express brand mesclun lettuce salad and lettuce, could be connected to the outbreak and has removed them from sale.

Foodborne Yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreaks are uncommon, but have previously been linked to contaminated water, milk, salad leaves and raw vegetables. Symptoms of infection usually include fever, rashes and severe abdominal pain.

Two New Zealand media reports giving more information about the outbreak investigation can be found here and here.

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