CDC releases new foodborne illness estimates

by Keith Nunes
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ATLANTA — New figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from food-borne illness. The agency said the new figures are more accurate than previous estimates due to better data used. The findings were published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The C.D.C.’s new estimates are lower than those published by the agency in 1999, when it estimated 76 million people fell ill due to food-borne illness, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The difference is largely the result of improvements in the quality and quantity of the data used and new methods used to estimate food-borne disease, according to the C.D.C.

For example, it is now known that most norovirus is not spread by the food-borne route, which has reduced the estimate of food-borne norovirus from 9.2 to approximately 5.5 million cases per year. Because of data and method improvements, the C.D.C. said the 1999 and current estimates cannot be compared to measure trends.

“We’ve made progress in better understanding the burden of food-borne illness and unfortunately, far too many people continue to get sick from the food they eat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C. “These estimates provide valuable information to help the C.D.C. and its partners set priorities and further reduce illnesses from food.”

The report noted Salmonella is the leading cause of estimated hospitalizations and deaths, responsible for about 28% of deaths and 35% of hospitalizations due to known pathogens transmitted by food. About 90% of estimated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths were due to seven pathogens: Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157, Listeria and Clostridium perfringens. And nearly 60% of estimated illnesses, but a much smaller proportion of severe illness, was caused by norovirus.

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