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Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2003;27(2):209-43.

Foodborne disease in Australia: incidence, notifications and outbreaks. Annual report of the OzFoodNet network, 2002.


In 2002, OzFoodNet continued to enhance surveillance of foodborne diseases across Australia. The OzFoodNet network expanded to cover all Australian states and territories in 2002. The National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health together with OzFoodNet concluded a national survey of gastroenteritis, which found that there were 17.2 (95% C.I. 14.5-19.9) million cases of gastroenteritis each year in Australia. The credible range of gastroenteritis that may be due to food each year is between 4.0-6.9 million cases with a mid-point of 5.4 million. During 2002, there were 23,434 notifications of eight bacterial diseases that may have been foodborne, which was a 7.7 per cent increase over the mean of the previous four years. There were 14,716 cases of campylobacteriosis, 7,917 cases of salmonellosis, 505 cases of shigellosis, 99 cases of yersiniosis, 64 cases of typhoid, 62 cases of listeriosis, 58 cases of shiga toxin producing E. coli and 13 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome. OzFoodNet sites reported 92 foodborne disease outbreaks affecting 1,819 persons, of whom 5.6 per cent (103/1,819) were hospitalised and two people died. There was a wide range of foods implicated in these outbreaks and the most common agent was Salmonella Typhimurium. Sites reported two outbreaks with potential for international spread involving contaminated tahini from Egypt resulting in an outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo infection and an outbreak of suspected norovirus infection associated with imported Japanese oysters. In addition, there were three outbreaks associated with animal petting zoos or poultry hatching programs and 318 outbreaks of suspected person-to-person transmission. Sites conducted 100 investigations into clusters of gastrointestinal illness where a source could not be identified, including three multi-state outbreaks of salmonellosis. OzFoodNet identified important risk factors for foodborne disease infection, including: Salmonella infections due to chicken and egg consumption, bakeries as a source of Salmonella infection, and problems associated with spit roast meals served by mobile caterers. There were marked improvements in surveillance during 2002, with all jurisdictions contributing to national cluster reports, increasing use of analytical studies to investigate outbreaks and 96.9 per cent of Salmonella notifications on state and territory surveillance databases recording complete information about serotype and phage type. During 2002, there were several investigations that showed the benefits of national collaboration to control foodborne disease. Sharing surveillance data from animals, humans and foods and rapid sharing of molecular typing information for human isolates of potentially foodborne organisms could further improve surveillance of foodborne disease in Australia.

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