E. Coli Decreases, But Other Illnesses Rise

Incidences of E. coli strain O157:H7 are dropping, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); however, other <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">foodborne pathogenic illnesses are on the rise, wrote The Washington Post.

Early CDC data indicated that reports of E. coli O157:H7 dropped last year, said the Washington Post, adding that Salmonella pathogens dropped very slightly in 2009, but were still above the goal levels the government set. Reports of campylobacter, Listeria, vibrio, and cryptosporidium rose, added the Washington Post.

“There is more work to do,” said David Goldman of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), quoted The Washington Post. “In particular, salmonella remains a challenge. We have not been as successful in moving the trend line in the right direction,” Goldman added.

Extreme cases of E. coli contamination can lead to kidney failure and death. Some people will require hospitalization, and even dialysis treatments or blood transfusions and E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

A report from the Produce Safety Project has found that foodborne illnesses are costing the U.S. $152 billion every year. According to the same study, more than a quarter of that cost—$39 billion—is the result of foodborne illnesses associated with fresh, canned and processed produce. Outbreaks of Salmonella, E. coli and other foodborne illnesses take a staggering toll. According to the federal government, 76 million people each year come down with some form of food poisoning; hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and about 5,000 die.

The CDC’s annual survey, published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also indicated a slight increase in Listeria infections. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In pregnant women, Listeriosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected and Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

The report also indicated an increase in vibrio-related sicknesses, which generally originate in oysters and shellfish, said The Washington Post. Illnesses from this pathogen were 85 percent higher last year than the national average from 1996 to 1998. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking pasteurization for oysters harvested from during warmer weather months in the Gulf of Mexico; however, industry has fought against this regulation, said the Washington Post.

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