Food Poisoning Outbreaks Caused 23,000 Illnesses in 2008

Government health officials report that Norovirus and salmonella infections dominated U.S. food poisoning cases in 2008, but the overall number of people who were sickened was down from prior years. 

According to figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans faced 1,034 foodborne disease outbreaks in 2008, which made 23,152 people ill and killed at least 22 people.

The numbers represented a 10% drop in the total number of outbreaks from 2003 through 2007 and a 5% drop in the number of people who were sickened.

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Norovirus was the most common illness, but salmonella food poisoning was linked to the most outbreak-related deaths and hospitalizations.

At least 13 deaths in 2008 were due to salmonella, and it hospitalized 62% of the 1,276 hospitalizations reported that year.

Overall, poultry, beef and fish were the three most common causes for food poisoning outbreaks, but fruits and nuts were actually associated with more illnesses. There were 1,755 food poisoning illnesses tied to fruit and nut consumption, followed by 1,622 illnesses caused by contaminated vine vegetables. Contaminated beef was a distant third, causing 952 illnesses.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. For most healthy adults, symptoms of food poisoning from salmonella typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe food poisoning after ingesting the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella food poisoning can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.

Norovirus is extremely contagious, and is found in the stool and vomit of infected people. It is most often spread through unsanitary food preparation.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis from norovirus in humans can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping and sometimes low-grade fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness. The symptoms hit suddenly, and last for about several days. Death is uncommon.


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