E.COLI 0157 Incidence Posts Substantial Decline: Other Foodbourne Illnesses Continue Downward Trend

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Cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections -- one of the most severe foodborne diseases -- showed a dramatic decline last year, decreasing 36 percent compared to the previous year, according to foodborne surveillance data released Thursday.

The data released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agricultural also showed that the incidence of three common foodborne diseases -- Campylobacter, Salmonella and Yersinia infections -- continued substantial declines seen in past eight years.

The overall incidence of E. coli O157:H7 infections has declined 42 percent since 1996, while Campylobacter infections have dropped 28 percent and Salmonella infections have decreased by 17 percent.

Cases of other less common bacterial and parasitic foodborne diseases have also decreased since surveillance began in 1996. Yersinia infections have decreased 49 percent, and Cryptosporidium infections have decreased 51 percent.

"These findings are good news for Americans and signify important progress toward meeting HHS' Healthy People 2010 objectives for reducing the incidence of disease caused by these bacterial infections," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "However, we must remain vigilant and continue our work to make America's food supply as safe as possible. Much work remains to be done, particularly in protecting our children from foodborne illness."

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The data also found that the incidence of Listeria, which had been decreasing the previous four years, did not decline in 2003. The national Listeria Action Plan was launched in 2003 to increase prevention efforts in the food chain, and a method is being developed in order to rapidly identify contaminated food items in outbreaks. The incidence of Salmonella Enteritidis, a common Salmonella serotype, has not changed significantly since 1996, demonstrating that additional efforts are needed to control this pathogen.

Children continue to suffer from foodborne illness in greater numbers than other groups. CDC, FDA and USDA are currently conducting a case-control study of sporadic cases of Salmonella and Campylobacter to find the best opportunities for prevention in young children.

Several factors have contributed to the overall decline in foodborne illnesses. Enhanced surveillance and outbreak investigations have identified new control measures and focused attention on preventing foodborne diseases.

The full report, "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infections with Pathogens Commonly Transmitted Through Food -- Selected Sites, United States, 2003" appears in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (April 30, 2004) and is available online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr

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The source of this release is http://www.hhs.gov

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