EFSA report on animal diseases transmissible to humans

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its first annual report on infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans. These diseases, called zoonotic diseases, affected over 380,000 EU citizens in 2004. Often the human form of the disease is acquired through contaminated food. According to the report, the two most frequently reported zoonotic diseases in humans were Salmonella and Campylobacter infections. These bacteria were also commonly found in food and animals.

EFSA has today published its first [1] annual Community summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses. The report provides data on 11 zoonotic diseases from the 25 European Union (EU) countries [2] and Norway for 2004 and data for previous years from many of these countries. The report includes data on the following: Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, verotoxin producing E.coli, Brucella, Yersinia, Trichinella, Echinococcus and Toxoplasma as well as tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis and rabies. [3]

Salmonella and Campylobacter infections were by far the most widely reported human zoonotic diseases in the EU in 2004. While there was a general downward trend of human Salmonella cases between 1999 and 2004, 13 of the EU Member States reported an increase in human Campylobacter cases between 2003 and 2004. Listeriosis, which can seriously affect the unborn child, accounted for the highest number of reported human fatalities, (107 deaths) amongst the 11 zoonoses.

 Salmonellaand Campylobacter were also the most reported zoonotic bacteria present in food. The highest Salmonella contamination rates were found in poultry and pigs and the fresh meat from these animals, indicating that eggs, poultry meat and pork are the major sources of human Salmonella infections. Campylobacter was present at significantly higher levels than Salmonella in poultry meat in 2004.

The full zoonoses report has now been published on the EFSA website and its results will be shared with the European Commission and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). In addition, EFSA’s Scientific Panels on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) and Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) will also consider the results of the report during 2006.

Notes to editors

The presence of a zoonotic bacteria or parasites in food does not necessarily mean that this will result in a corresponding number of human cases as safe handling, preparation and cooking of foods will help prevent these diseases in humans. Information on the safe handling, preparation and cooking of foods can be obtained from national food safety authorities and from the WHO.

EFSA used the available data to indicate general trends in the EU. Owing to differences in reporting and monitoring procedures figures are in most cases not directly comparable between Member States.

[1] The task of preparing the Annual Community Summary Report has been transferred to EFSA from the European Commission which was responsible for preparing previous reports.
[2] Including comprehensive data from the 10 new Member States for the first time.
[3] 11 zoonotic diseases for which information is collected according to Directive 92/117/EEC.

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