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Some Food-Borne Illnesses Down, Some Up

Preliminary CDC Data Show Some Food-Borne Illnesses Declining, Others Unchanged or Rising
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Foodborne Infections Hold Steady

April 12, 2007 -- The CDC says some food-borne illnesses are declining in the U.S., while others are holding steady or increasing.

The CDC today released its preliminary 2006 food-borne illness data from 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

A total of 17,252 confirmed cases of food-borne illness were reported in those states in 2006, according to the CDC. The most commonly reported illnesses were:

  • Salmonella: 6,655 cases
  • Campylobacter: 5,712 cases
  • Shigella: 2,736 cases
  • Cryptosporidium: 859 cases
  • E. coli 0157: 590 cases
  • E. coli non-0157: 209 cases
  • Yersinia: 158 cases
  • Vibrio: 154 cases
  • Listeria: 138 cases
  • Cyclospora: 41 cases

Trends in Food-borne Illnesses

The CDC also compared the preliminary 2006 data with data from 1996 to 1998 from the same 10 states.

In 2006, four food-borne illnesses -- yersinia, shigella, listeria, and campylobacter -- were less common than they had been from 1996 to 1998. In 2006, reported yersinia infections were 50% rarer, shigella infections were 35% rarer, listeria infections were 34% rarer, and campylobacter infections were 30% rarer than in 1996-1998.

However, vibrio infections, which are usually associated with shellfish, rose 78%.

"We will be doing some additional epidemiology to better understand the sources of vibrio infection and what we need to do to reduce the risk associated with that," CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, said in a news conference.

E. coli Rates

Reported cases of three other food-borne illnesses -- salmonella, E. coli 0157, and cryptosporidium -- were similar in 2006 and from 1996 to 1998.

However, E. coli infections had declined in 2003 and 2004, then rose by 2006 to levels similar to those between 1996 and 1998.

That may be partly due to E. coli outbreaks last fall, notes Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Disease.

"Two years ago, we were looking at what looked like a pretty good success story for E. coli 0157," Tauxe says, crediting major interventions to reduce in E. coli infection in ground beef.

"We conclude that this increase that we're seeing now ... must be related to foods other than ground beef," Tauxe says.

Gerberding cautions that the data don't represent the entire U.S. and that it would be incorrect to assume that the trends noted in the study are happening nationwide.

The statistics appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Food Safety

"I think all of this is a reminder to consumers that while food safety begins at the farm, it has to be carried forward into the home," Gerberding says.

"We have to be vigilant about the kind of hygiene in our kitchen and the proper preparation and cooking of foods so that we reduce the risk," Gerberding says.

Here are food safety tips from the CDC:

  • Clean your hands, cutting boards, knives, sponges, and countertops often.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood and their juices away from other foods.
  • Cook foods to proper temperatures.
  • Refrigerate foods promptly.

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