E. coli, Salmonella Cost $3.1 Billion Per Year, USDA Says

The Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), using its recently released tool for calculating the cost of foodborne illnesses, estimated that <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 cases cost the nation about $3.13 billion a year.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimated that Salmonella infections, from all sources, cost about $2.65 billion annually, based on an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 1.4 million Salmonella cases annually from all sources, with 415 deaths. The estimated average cost per case is $1,896. The ERS also put the cost of E. coli O157 cases at $478.4 million, using the CDC’s estimate of 73,480 cases per year from all sources, with 61 deaths. The average cost per case is estimated at $6,510.

The ERS posted an online “Foodborne Illness Cost Calculator” that enables Web users to determine their own estimates of the cost of foodborne illnesses by state, region, or a given outbreak. ERS estimates, which have been used in cost-benefit and impact analyses, include assumptions about disease incidence, outcome severity, and medical and productivity costs. The calculator provides information about assumptions and allows users to change assumptions to understand cost estimates. The tool is set up to provide estimates for Salmonella and E coli O157; however, the USDA says it plans to add other pathogens, such as Campylobacter and Listeria.

The USDA cost estimates include medical costs, time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and the cost of premature death, which excludes several other potential costs, such as pain and suffering, travel, and child care. Costs related to chronic complications in Salmonella cases are excluded, as are costs for special education and nursing home care in E coli cases. The estimates included medical costs, lost life expectancy, pain and suffering, and functional disability but not costs to government or the food industry, said CIDRAP.

Salmonella is an organism that may cause fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and—possibly—bloody diarrhea in healthy individuals. It can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. Some strains are necessary for digestion; however, some are harmful, deadly, and toxin producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli, which includes the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7. E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death, with symptoms that include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.

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. Campylobacter infections can lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a potentially paralyzing illness that can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage, as well as meningitis.

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