FoodNet Report: Rapid Tests Challenge Ability to Track Illness Trends
Reducing foodborne illness depends in part on identifying which illnesses are decreasing and which are increasing. Yet recent changes in the use of tests that diagnose foodborne illness pose challenges to monitoring illnesses and progress toward preventing foodborne disease, according to a report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Rapid diagnostic tests help doctors diagnose infections quicker than traditional culture methods, which require growing bacteria to determine what is causing illness. But without a bacterial culture, public health officials cannot get the detailed information needed to detect and prevent outbreaks, monitor disease trends, and identify antibiotic resistance.
The MMWR article includes the most recent data from CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet, which collects data on 15% of the U.S. population. It summarizes preliminary 2016 data on nine germs spread commonly through food. In 2016, FoodNet reported 24,029 infections, 5,512 hospitalizations, and 98 deaths. This is the first time the numbers used for calculations of trends include bacterial infections diagnosed only by rapid diagnostic tests as well as those confirmed by traditional culture-based methods. Previously, these calculations used only those bacterial infections confirmed by culture-based methods. The most frequent causes of infection in 2016 were Salmonella and Campylobacter, which is consistent with previous years.
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