Yersinia enterocolitica
Amanda Gilbertson
It was a bright sunny day when three cousins bearing the name Yersinia aroused in preparation for some travelling.  They had heard of some of their great ancestors of the past wreaking havoc around the United States in places such as Oneida County, New York, King County, Washington, and Arkansas.  The first story passed down to them from their elders occurring in Oneida County, New York is the beginning of their marvelous heritage.  It was 1976 and some unsuspecting young children on their milk break were enjoying cool creamy chocolate milk.  Little did they know that in less than two days, the family Yersinia would be their worst enemy.  This was not the only myth passed on from the elders to the three young cousins.  Another incident involving their family occurred in December 1981 in Washington.  In this  case the Yersinia family had been on vacation swimming in some nonchlorinated water and some how gotten into soybean curd.  And finally the third legend told around the fireside is about an incident which occurred about a year later in Arkansas.  The family vacation once again took them into a milk production plant where they infected the milk destined to be ingested by humans.

Now that the three cousins knew their family heritage they were prepared for their day of travelling.  They decided to split up to increase their chances of tragedy.  Yersinia pestis headed overseas to Europe trying to cause another plague.  Yersinia pseudotuberculosis also headed overseas to Japan to contaminate some water and food.  That left Yersinia enterocolitica to create outbreaks here in the states.  Since Y. enterocolitica is a small rod-shaped, Gram-negative bacterium, it is easy for him to hide out from predators.  His favorite places to hang out are with animals such as pigs, birds, beavers, cats, and dogs.  But this little bugger can also be found in environmental situations.  He loves to swim in ponds and lakes and hang out in meat, ice cream and milk production plants.  So Y. enterocolitica started with these as possible places to cause an outbreak of  Yersiniosis.  He knew that the population he easily affected were young people or very old people so he tried to stay near these groups.

After a long day of playing around in his favorite places Y. enterocolitica would not know if he caused an outbreak for 24 to 48 hours.  He was very tired so he went home, ate some dinner and went to bed.  He figured that he would hear through the grapevine if the young kids or the old people had been affected.  Although Y. enterocolitica knew that outbreaks were rare in the United States with only about 17,000 cases happening annually, he knew that he was destined for fame knowing the history of his family.


*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.


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