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CDC Sees Salmonella Cases Spike

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The rate of Salmonella infections has risen 15 percent since 2006, says a recent report. Despite the latest scare in European countries by the new E. coli strand which killed 22 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced illnesses associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) have actually decreased by nearly half in the last 15 years.

The study published online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reported “of the 19,089 infections, 4.247 hospitalizations and 68 deaths from foodborne pathogens in 2010,” Salmonella infection was the most common and accounted for 2,290 hospitalizations and 29 deaths.

Every year there are approximately 1,000 reported outbreaks; however, most reported foodborne illnesses are not part of a recognized outbreak. Although the U.S. performs outbreak investigations, preventing infections remains a challenge due to the numerous changes in U.S. food supply, says the report.

In the U.S., Salmonella is the cause for an estimated $365 million in yearly direct medical costs. Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC, said the challenge of lowering Salmonella infections is heightened because various foods such as meats, eggs, produce and processed foods can easily become contaminated, reported MedPage Today.

“Finding the source can be challenging because it can introduced in many different ways,” said Frieden.

The study data was obtained from FoodNet, a program that conducts active, population-based surveillance for laboratory-confirmed infections for Salmonella and STEC. According to the CDC, there is an estimated 29 infections for every lab-confirmed Salmonella infection even though the surveillance area is roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population.

“The estimated total number of Salmonella infections is 1.2 million per year,” said Chris Braden, MD, Director of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the CDC.

Federal agencies are making efforts to reduce the number of foodborne infections.

In January, the Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted to ensure safety of the U.S. food supply. The new law allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to focus more on prevention by providing the agency with enforcement authorities designed to achieve compliance with food safety standards. Under the Act, the FDA implemented a new egg safety requirement which is expected to reduce Salmonella infections by 60 percent, said Michael R. Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.

In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to reduce the “allowable contamination of whole broiler chickens at processing plants from 20 percent to 7.5 percent of carcasses,” says the report.

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