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Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Jul;22(7):1193-200. doi: 10.3201/eid2207.150833.

Comparing Characteristics of Sporadic and Outbreak-Associated Foodborne Illnesses, United States, 2004-2011.


Outbreak data have been used to estimate the proportion of illnesses attributable to different foods. Applying outbreak-based attribution estimates to nonoutbreak foodborne illnesses requires an assumption of similar exposure pathways for outbreak and sporadic illnesses. This assumption cannot be tested, but other comparisons can assess its veracity. Our study compares demographic, clinical, temporal, and geographic characteristics of outbreak and sporadic illnesses from Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria, and Salmonella bacteria ascertained by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet). Differences among FoodNet sites in outbreak and sporadic illnesses might reflect differences in surveillance practices. For Campylobacter, Listeria, and Escherichia coli O157, outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar for severity, sex, and age. For Salmonella, outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar for severity and sex. Nevertheless, the percentage of outbreak illnesses in the youngest age category was lower. Therefore, we do not reject the assumption that outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar.


Campylobacter; Escherichia coli O157; FoodNet; Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network; Listeria; Salmonella; bacteria; disease outbreaks; enteric infections; foodborne diseases; sporadic

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