Improvements in 2011 Estimates
Five key improvements in the 2011 estimates are:
- The proportion of severe illnesses for a given pathogen (people with severe stomach flu) are more likely to seek medical care, and only those seeking medical care can be captured in surveillance data).
- The frequency with which persons with mild and severe illness seek medical care and submit a stool sample for laboratory testing.
- The frequency with which laboratories test for that pathogen. Not all laboratories test for all the pathogens.
- The sensitivity of laboratory tests for that pathogen (that is, the likelihood that the test correctly identifies the pathogen when it is actually present in a specimen).
Need for improvements and innovations remains
Future refinement of estimates of foodborne illness
Although investments made over the past decade have resulted in great improvements and innovations and more accurate estimates in 2011, limitations remain that need to be addressed in the future. For example,
- More detailed information on norovirus will better inform future estimates due to the availability of improved surveillance and special studies conducted in the United States. Most of the data underlying the norovirus estimates is from other countries.
- Improved information on the cases of acute gastroenteritis that are reported during FoodNet survey telephone interviews will be needed to help discern whether they might be caused by noninfectious conditions.
- Refining estimates of the degree of underreporting of hospitalizations and deaths.
- Accounting for illnesses caused by some of the unspecified agents that do not result in acute gastrointestinal illness, as such illnesses were not included in the current estimates.