Salmonella, Campylobacter infections down in EU, Listeria infections up in 2012

 

ChickenDinnerPlate_BBQ_wLemon_blogFor the first time in five years, cases of a common foodborne illness were slightly lower in 2012 as compared to previous years, according to a joint European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report released yesterday.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of zoonotic foodborne illness in the European Union (EU) with 214,268 reported cases in 2012. Although the number of cases decreased 4.3 percent from 2011 the overall trend for the past five years has edged upward. Campylobacteriosis can cause pain, fever, nausea and diarrhea. Although many cases resolve without hospitalization, Campylobacter jejuni (the type of Campylobacter most often linked to human illness) has been linked to onset of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially fatal illness that can cause paralysis, respiratory and neurological issues.

The report also found a decrease in salmonellosis cases for the seventh year in a row, with 91,034 cases reported in 2012 – a 4.7 percent decrease when compared to 2011, and a 32 percent (or 43,546 case) decrease from 2008. The report attributed the decrease at least partially to Salmonella control programs in poultry and noted that most member states had met their Salmonella reduction goals for the year. Salmonellosis is characterized by gastrointestinal illness and fever. Symptoms typically resolve within a few days. Most cases were reported during the summer.

While the decreases are good news, the report also found a 10.5 percent increase in listeriosis reports from 2011 to 2012, which fits with a generally increasing trend during the past five years. Although confirmed case numbers were relatively low at 1,642, Listeria is of particular concern given the severity of the illness it can cause. Listeria can significantly impact pregnant women, as the bacteria can spread to the fetus and cause severe illness or failed pregnancy, as well as children, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

The report also highlighted other foodborne zoonotic illnesses of concern, such as verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC), which experienced a significant decrease; Trichinella; and Mycobacterium bovis, which causes tuberculosis.

The full report is available here.

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