By Kathleen Hobson
There are new estimates of the prevalence of foodborne disease out today. According to the CDC, about 48 million Americans — or 1 in 6 of us — fall ill each year because of something we ate. About 128,000 of those people are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
In addition, these illnesses lead to “billions” of dollars in health-care costs, Chris Braden, acting director of the CDC’s division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, told reporters on a conference call.
You’re probably wondering whether rates of foodborne illnesses have been improving. Turns out that’s hard to know. The CDC says the estimates released today can’t be compared with those out in 1999, which found about 5,000 deaths annually from foodborne diseases, because different methods were used.
Data solely from the CDC’s FoodNet surveillance system point to a 20% reduction in illnesses caused by the pathogens it tracks over the last decade, the CDC says. The estimates out today encompass a broader range of pathogens, however.
The culprit involved in foodborne illnesses isn’t identified in 80% of cases, while 20% were pegged to one of 31 known pathogens. Nor is the food source identified, or the way in which the food became contaminated.
The pathogen contributing to the biggest proportion of foodborne illness is norovirus, making up an estimated 58% of cases, the CDC says. Trailing it are salmonella (11%), Clostridium perfringens (10%), Campylobacter spp. (9%) and Staphylococcus aureus (3%).
When it comes to sending people to the hospital, though, the lineup is different. Here are the top five pathogens contributing to hospitalization for foodborne diseases:
- Salmonella, responsible for an estimated 35% of hospitalizations.
- Norovirus, 26%.
- Campylobacter spp., 15%
- Toxoplasma gondii, 8%.
- E. coli 0157, 4%
And as for deaths:
- Salmonella, contributing to an estimated 28% of deaths.
- Toxoplasma gondii, 24%.
- Listeria monocytogenes, 19%.
- Norovirus, 11%.
- Campylobacter spp., 6%.
Here’s a CDC page full of stats and figures on foodborne diseases.
Image of salmonella at 8,000X magnification by CDC/Bette Jensen