Zoonoses are infections and diseases that are naturally transmissible directly or indirectly, for example via contaminated foodstuffs, between animals and humans. The severity of these diseases in humans varies from mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions. In order to prevent zoonoses from occurring, it is important to identify which animals and foodstuffs are the main sources of infections. For this purpose, information aimed at protecting human health is collected and analysed from all European Union Member States.
In 2009, 27 Member States and four other European countries submitted information on the occurrence of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food-borne outbreaks to the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Assisted by the Zoonoses Collaboration Centre in Denmark, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control analysed the data, the results of which are published in this annual European Union Summary Report, covering 14 diseases.
A total of 5,550 food-borne outbreaks were reported in the European Union, causing 48,964 human cases, 4,356 hospitalisations and 46 deaths. Most of the reported outbreaks were caused by Salmonella, viruses and bacterial toxins. The most important food sources were once again eggs and egg products, mixed or buffet meals and pig meat and products thereof. In addition, 15 waterborne outbreaks were reported in 2009 related to the contamination of private or public water sources.
The number of salmonellosis cases in humans decreased by 17.4 %, compared to 2008, and the statistically significant decreasing trend in the European Union continued for the fifth consecutive year. In total 108,614 confirmed human cases were reported in 2009 and in particular, human cases caused by S. Enteritidis decreased markedly. The case fatality rate was 0.08 %. It is assumed that the observed reduction of salmonellosis cases is mainly attributed to successful implementation of national Salmonella control programmes in fowl populations; but also other control measures along the food chain may have contributed to the reduction.
Together 18 Member States reached the European Union Salmonella reduction target for breeding flocks of Gallus gallus in 2009, and 17 Member States met their 2009 reduction target for flocks of laying hens, i.e. four Member States less than in 2008. However, 18 Member States already met the new Salmonella reduction target set for broiler flocks, which is to achieved by 2011. In the other farm animal species and food, no major changes in the occurrence of Salmonella were observed.
In foodstuffs, Salmonella was most often detected in fresh broiler, turkey and pig meat, on average at levels of 5.4 %, 8.7 % and 0.7 %, respectively. Salmonella was rarely detected in other foodstuffs, such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables. Products non-compliant with European Union Salmonella criteria were mainly observed in minced meat and meat preparations as well as in live molluscs.
The notification rate of campylobacteriosis in the European Union increased slightly in 2009 compared to 2008, and campylobacteriosis continued to be the most commonly reported zoonosis in the European Union with 198,252 confirmed human cases. The case fatality rate was 0.02 %, which is lower than for salmonellosis. In foodstuffs, the highest proportion of Campylobacter-positive samples was once again reported for fresh broiler meat where, on average, 31 % of samples were positive. Campylobacter was also commonly detected from live poultry, pigs and cattle.
The number of listeriosis cases in humans increased by 19.1 % compared to 2008, with 1,645 confirmed cases recorded in 2009. A high case fatality ratio of 16.6 % was reported among cases. Listeria monocytogenes was seldom detected above the legal safety limit from ready-to-eat foods and findings over this limit were most often reported from fishery products, cheeses, and meat products at levels of 0.3 %-1.1 % in the European Union.
Based on the reported fatality rates and the total numbers of reported confirmed cases, it is estimated that in 2009 there were approximately 270 human deaths due to listeriosis, 90 deaths due to salmonellosis and 40 deaths due to campylobacteriosis in the European Union.
A total of 3,573 confirmed verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) infections and 7,595 confirmed yersiniosis cases in humans were reported in the European Union in 2009. The number of reported VTEC cases seems to have increased, while that of yersiniosis has been decreasing during the past years with a statistically significant trend. Among animals and foodstuffs, human pathogenic VTEC bacteria were most often reported in cattle and bovine meat. Yersinia bacteria were mostly isolated from pigs and pig meat.
The numbers of confirmed brucellosis cases in humans have declined at a statistically significant rate and, in total, 401 confirmed cases were reported in the European Union in 2009. Human tuberculosis cases due to Mycobacterium bovis has also remained at a low level with 115 confirmed cases reported in 2008. Brucellosis and tuberculosis positive herds are also slowly decreasing in cattle, sheep and goat populations in the European Union.
Q fever cases in humans continued to increase and a total of 1,987 confirmed cases were reported in 2009, with a majority of cases reported from one Member State. Q fever was also found by almost all reporting Member States in domestic ruminants and most frequently in goats and sheep.
Two parasitic zoonoses, trichinellosis and echinococcosis, caused 748 and 790 confirmed human cases in the European Union, respectively. Uninspected pig and wild boar meat appeared to be the most important source of human trichinellosis cases. Trichinella species were mainly detected in wildlife and Echinococcus in foxes. Additionally, 1,259 confirmed human cases of toxoplasmosis were reported in 2009. In animals Toxoplasma was most often found in sheep and goats.
Rabies was reported in one person in 2009 and the infection was acquired within European Union. Rabies was still found from domestic and wildlife animals in the Baltic and some eastern European Member States, mostly in foxes and raccoon dogs. Ten Member States reported rabies cases in bats.
Some data were also reported on Cysticerci and Francisella with few Cysticerci findings in farm animals.