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48 Million Americans Acquire Foodborne Illnesses Annually

Salmonella found to be the leading cause of hospitalizations and deaths

THURSDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately 48 million Americans acquire foodborne illnesses annually, with 128,000 becoming hospitalized and 3,000 dying each year as a result of the diseases, according to new estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published online Dec. 15 in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Elaine Scallan, Ph.D., of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from active and passive surveillance and other sources and estimated that, each year, 31 major pathogens acquired in the United States cause 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness, 55,961 hospitalizations, and 1,351 deaths. The investigators also found that 58 percent of illnesses were caused by norovirus, followed by nontyphoidal Salmonella (11 percent), Clostridium perfringens (10 percent), and Campylobacter (9 percent). The main cause of hospitalization was nontyphoidal Salmonella (35 percent), followed by norovirus (26 percent). Leading causes of death were nontyphoidal Salmonella (28 percent) and Toxoplasma gondii (24 percent).

To assess episodes of illness caused by unspecified agents, Scallan and colleagues used data from surveys, hospital records, and death certificates to estimate illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from acute gastroenteritis and subtracted illnesses caused by known gastroenteritis pathogens. The investigators found that approximately 38.4 million episodes of domestically-acquired foodborne illness in the United States were caused by unspecified agents, which was associated with 71,878 hospitalizations and 1,686 deaths.

"People expect food to nourish them, not to harm them. So we need to intensify efforts to decrease the number of illnesses and deaths due to foodborne diseases," Christopher Braden, M.D., director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Disease, said in a statement.

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