Zoonotic diseases: progress has stalled

There were only minor fluctuations in reported cases of three main zoonotic diseases in the EU last year compared to 2016. The number of reported cases of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis has remained stable over the past five years, although listeriosis continues to rise.

After several years of decline, salmonellosis cases in the EU have flattened out. In 2017 the number fell slightly from 94,425 to 91,662 but the downward trend that began in 2008 has stalled in recent years. These are the main findings of the annual report on trends and sources of zoonoses published today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

After years of significant progress in reducing the burden of foodborne illnesses in the EU, especially Salmonella, the situation has now stalled. Increased efforts are needed to push the figures further down” said EFSA’s chief scientist Marta Hugas

S. Enteritidis is the most commonly reported type of Salmonella in humans, causing one in seven foodborne outbreaks. In the period 2013-2017, the trend of confirmed cases of S. Enteritidis in humans was stable and seemed to mirror an analogous trend in laying hens.

The 5,079 foodborne and waterborne outbreaks reported in 2017 represent a 6.8% decrease compared with 2016. Salmonella bacteria were the most common cause of foodborne outbreaks, particularly in meat products and eggs, which caused the highest number of outbreak cases.

“The fall in the number of outbreaks is to be welcomed, but we still saw an average of 100 food- and waterborne outbreaks per week in 2017, some of which affected several countries”, said Mike Catchpole, ECDC Chief Scientist. “These infections are a substantial cause of human illness in the EU. The rising trend of listeriosis, which continues to cause deaths in vulnerable groups, needs to be reversed.”

Campylobacter and Listeria

Cases of campylobacteriosis decreased slightly in 2017 compared to 2016 (246,158 vs 246,917), but it is still the most commonly reported zoonotic disease in the EU. The highest occurrence was detected in chicken meat (37.4%) and turkey meat (31.5%).

Cases of listeriosis decreased slightly in 2017: 2,480 infections were reported, against 2,509 in 2016. However, the trend has been upward over the past five years. The group most affected by the disease in 2017 were the elderly, particularly those over 84. In this age group, listeriosis fatality rate was 24%; overall in the EU, the infection was fatal to one in every 10 patients. The highest levels of L. monocytogenes were detected in fish and fishery products (6%), followed by ready-to-eat salads (4.2%).

The report further summarises trends and sources for tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis, Brucella, STEC, Yersinia, Trichinella, Echinococcus, congenital Toxoplasma, rabies, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), West Nile virus and tularaemia.

The report is based on 2017 data collected from all the 28 European Union Member States. Nine other European countries reported on some of the zoonotic agents (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

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