Research – Yersinia enterocolitica Outbreak Associated with Pasteurized Milk

Mary Ann Liebert

In July 2019, we investigated a cluster of Yersinia enterocolitica cases affecting a youth summer camp and nearby community in northeastern Pennsylvania. After initial telephone interviews with camp owners and community members, we identified pasteurized milk from a small dairy conducting on-site pasteurization, Dairy A, as a shared exposure. We conducted site visits at the camp and Dairy A where we collected milk and other samples. Samples were cultured for Y. enterocolitica. Clinical and nonclinical isolates were compared using molecular subtyping. We performed case finding, conducted telephone interviews for community cases, and conducted a cohort study among adult camp staff by administering an online questionnaire. In total, we identified 109 Y. enterocolitica cases. Consumption of Dairy A milk was known for 37 (34%); of these, Dairy A milk was consumed by 31 (84%). Dairy A had shipped 214 gallons of pasteurized milk in 5 weekly shipments to the camp by mid-July. Dairy A milk was the only shared exposure identified between the camp and community. Y. enterocolitica was isolated from Dairy A unpasteurized milk samples. Five clinical isolates from camp members, two clinical isolates from community members, and nine isolates from unpasteurized milk were indistinguishable by whole-genome sequencing. The risk for yersinosis among camp staff who drank Dairy A milk was 5.3 times the risk for those who did not (95% confidence interval: 1.6–17.3). Because Dairy A only sold pasteurized milk, pasteurized milk was considered the outbreak source. We recommend governmental agencies and small dairies conducting on-site pasteurization collaborate to develop outbreak prevention strategies.

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