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E. Coli Infection Rates Down, Says CDC

April 16, 2010

According to an April 16 CDC press release, US E. coli infection rates decreased sharply last year, reaching their lowest level since 2004.

Also, the CDC reported that several other pathogens were on the decline in 2009. Shigella infection rates decreased by 55-percent, Yersinia infection rates fell by 53-percent, STEC O157 rates by 41-percent and Campylobacter rates by 30-percent, according to data collected through the organization’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet).

FoodNet, which was launched in 1996, is a collaboration between the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and several state-level health departments. It collects information regarding food-related illnesses, and while infection rates from the most commonly transmitted pathogens has declined since FoodNet was established, the CDC reports that there has been little change in most of them since 2004.

According to an April 15 CDC press release, “Among the four pathogens tracked in FoodNet that have national incidence goals, Salmonella is furthest from meeting the goal,” despite the fact that there was a 10-percent decrease in infection rate in 2009. “One possible reason for the slow progress in fighting Salmonella is that it is spread through a wide variety of foods, and also through non foodborne routes. Salmonella can be spread by poultry, meat, eggs, produce and processed foods, as well as by contact with animals like baby chicks, small turtles, reptiles and frogs.”

On the other hand, Vibrio, a pathogen that is typically found in raw or undercooked shellfish and can cause severe illness or death in patients with weakened immune systems, experienced an 85-percent increase in the first three years of surveillance.

“To reduce their risk of foodborne illness, consumers should assume raw chicken, meat and eggs carry bacteria that can cause illness and should not allow them to cross-contaminate surfaces and other foods,” the CDC recommends. “They should also cook chicken and meat to a safe temperature as measured by a food thermometer, avoid unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized soft cheese and make sure shellfish are cooked or pressure treated before eating.”

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