Foodborne outbreaks halve for Austria in 2020

Foodborne outbreaks halve for Austria in 2020

by Sue Jones
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The number of outbreaks and people affected in them plummeted in Austria in 2020 compared to the year before.

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) reported there were only 21 outbreaks this past year that affected 67 people. In 2019, 48 outbreaks sickened 793 people, including two that involved more than 300 patients.

The number of people that needed to be hospitalized was 17 compared to 159 in 2019 and one death.

Campylobacter was the most common cause with 10 outbreaks affecting 26 people. In one outbreak, Campylobacter jejuni and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157: H7 were isolated from two patients at the same time. Second is Salmonella with seven outbreaks and 28 patients.

Outbreaks linked to fish and raw goat’s milk
One outbreak each was due to STEC with six cases, Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus with three patients, Listeria monocytogenes with two sick and Brucella melitensis also with two sick.

The listeriosis outbreak affected about 50 people across Europe but mainly in Germany and was linked to smoked trout fillets produced in Denmark.

AGES has also revealed that between January 2020 and September 2021, four people in three federal states contracted the same type of Listeria but the source has not yet been found.

All of them had underlying illnesses, they had to be treated in hospital and one person died. Surveys indicate the cause is food-related and across several states. The Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) has asked AGES to investigate.

In 2020, an outbreak with 12 patients was linked to poultry contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis from a takeaway restaurant. The TBE virus outbreak was triggered by consumption of raw goat’s milk and raw goat’s milk cheese.

Four outbreaks were acquired abroad, one of them was Brucella melitensis, possibly after consumption of sheep meat in Croatia, and another was a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak after a stay in Poland but the food source was unknown.

E. coli figures for 2020
Austria had previously published figures showing a decline in Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in 2020 versus the year before. Listeria, botulism poisoning and Yersinia were at about the same levels.

Recently released E. coli statistics show the number of reports went up from 286 in 2019 to 304 in 2020. More than 100 infections were registered in the summer months of July and August. The most cases occurred in those aged 0 to 4 years old with 91. Next is the age group 5 to 14 years old and those over the age of 65.

There was no reduction in the number of STEC cases as a result of measures taken by the federal government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) occurred in 11 cases compared to 16 in 2019. Nine of the 11 were children aged up to 14 years old. Three were STEC O26: H11 as well as two each for STEC O145:H28 and STEC O157:H7.

Six small STEC outbreaks in families were recorded in 2020 and affected 15 people. A STEC O146: H28 outbreak was also revealed that had affected six people up to mid-April 2021.

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