Alerts help detect multi-country foodborne outbreaks

| July 1, 2015

nhsggc_news_Ecoli_largeThe European Food and Waterborne Diseases Study Group has published a report on “event-based surveillance of food- and waterborne diseases in Europe” based on an examination of Outbreak Alerts issued during the period from 2008 to 2013.

Outbreak Alerts, referred to as ‘urgent inquiries’ (UI), are an agreed procedure for sharing information about outbreaks amongst the members of an international surveillance network managed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Sweden. UI can be issued by participating countries, or by the ECDC, when an unusual increase in cases of a food- or waterborne disease is detected and where there is potential for international spread.

The system is a development of the previous Salm-Net Salmonella surveillance network, but now covers six priority diseases: salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, STEC infections, listeriosis, shigellosis and yersiniosis.

The report reveals that 215 UI were issued during the study period, most of which (63%) were related to salmonellosis. A food vehicle was identified for about half of the UI, with vegetables being the most reported category. About 28% of the outbreaks had an international dimension, typically involving between two and four countries. The reports authors conclude that the UI system allowed early detection of international outbreaks and facilitated identification of suspect food vehicles and the implementation of control measures.

The full report is published in the online journal Eurosurveillance and can be found here.

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