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Foodborne illnesses rise 15% in U.S. in 2019, CDC says

The CDC reports that foodborne infections are up 15 percent nationwide in the last year, suggesting progress on controlling them has stalled. Photo by Beth Rosengard/Pixabay
The CDC reports that foodborne infections are up 15 percent nationwide in the last year, suggesting progress on controlling them "has stalled." Photo by Beth Rosengard/Pixabay

April 30 (UPI) -- Infections caused by contaminated food are up 15 percent across the United States, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network that was published Thursday.

The FoodNet report suggests the rise in infections from food is a sign that "progress in controlling major foodborne pathogens in the United States has stalled," the agency said.

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"Reducing foodborne illness will require more widespread implementation of known prevention measures and of strategies that target particular pathogens," it added.

In 2019, FoodNet identified nearly 26,000 cases of foodborne infections. Of these, more than 6,100 required hospital treatment. In all, 122 people died after being sickened by a foodborne infection last year.

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Campylobacter -- an infection caused by eating raw or under-cooked poultry -- was the most common foodborne illness reported, with more than 9,700 cases, followed by salmonella, with roughly 8,600 cases. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, with 3,100 or so cases, andhigella, with more than 2,400, rounded out the top four.

Compared with 2016-2018, cases of STEC increased 34 percent in 2019. The incidence of campylobacter rose 13 percent.

The incidence of infection caused by listeria, salmonella and shigella remained unchanged, while there was a decline in the number of salmonella serotype typhimurium cases. This indicates that interventions designed to reduce infections -- like vaccinating chickens and other food animals -- can be effective, FoodNet said.

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Notably, overall, 86 percent of infections were acquired domestically, according to the report.

Several factors are likely behind the increase in infections, the agency said, including improved diagnostic and surveillance approaches.

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