Campylobacteriosis overtakes salmonellosis as the most reported animal infection transmitted to humans in the EU

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has today published its second annual Community report on infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) which affect over 380,000 European Union (EU) citizens every year. In 2005, campylobacteriosis overtook salmonellosis as the most reported zoonotic disease in humans in the EU. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) provided the data on human zoonoses cases and contributed in the analysis of human related data in the report.

The second annual Community report (2005) on infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) published today has highlighted campylobacteriosis as the most reported animal infection transmitted to humans in the EU. In 2005, reported Campylobacter infections in humans increased by 7.8% compared to the previous year rising to an incidence rate of 51.6 cases per 100,000 people and to a total of 197,363 recorded cases. As in 2004, the primary source of most human Campylobacter infections is related to fresh poultry meat with up to 66% of some samples being positive. On the other hand, Salmonella infections, while also still remaining a serious public health challenge, fell by 9.5% in 2005 to an incidence rate of 38.2 cases per 100,000 (176,395 reported cases). Salmonellosis in humans is most likely linked to the presence of Salmonella in eggs and poultry and pig meat. A decrease in Salmonella contamination in eggs was observed during the last years.

The report also provides data on important resistance rates to antibiotics in Campylobacter originating from farm animals and food of animal origin. Some results indicated that over 80% of the tested bacteria were resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat human diseases. This is a growing area of concern for public health specialists as this important reservoir of antimicrobial resistance might compromise effective treatment of these diseases in humans.

The report includes data on other zoonotic diseases (see Table 1 below) which, although more rare in people in comparison to Campylobacter and Salmonella, are still a major concern in terms of public health owing to their severe impact on human health. One example is listeriosis which, although affecting relatively few people (1,439 reported cases in 2005), has a high case-fatility rate and can also seriously affect the unborn child often resulting in miscarriage. VTEC[1] infections, a type of E. coli, which affected 3,314 people in 2005 is also another disease which can seriously damage human health and is most severe in children.

In 2005, the reporting of investigated outbreaks caused by consumption of contaminated food was mandatory for the first time in EU. Together 5,311 foodborne outbreaks were reported in the EU involving 47,251 people and resulting in 5,330 hospitalisation and 24 deaths.

Member States receiving Community co-financing for eradication programmes of bovine tuberculosis in cattle and brucellosis in cattle, sheep and goats, reported less positive herds in 2005 compared to 2004, indicating that the programmes seem to be having an impact.

Table 1. Reported incidences of the zoonoses in humans, 2005
100,000  people
Number of
 reported cases
< 0.01
< 0.01
Tuberculosis due to M. bovis
< 0.01
< 0.01
Notes to editors

This is the second annual Community summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses (2005 data). The report provides data on zoonotic diseases from 24 European Union (EU) countries and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

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] Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli

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