Fewer zoonotic diseases in humans, foodborne outbreaks in 2020

Findings are based on the annual EU One Health zoonosis report
calendar icon 16 December 2021
clock icon 2 minute read

In 2020, campylobacteriosis was the most reported zoonosis in the EU. Compared to 2019 when there were 220,000 reported cases, 2020 saw much fewer numbers with 120,946 reported cases.

Campylobacteriosis was followed by salmonellosis, which affected 52,702 people in 2020 compared to 88,000 in 2019. The number of reported foodborne outbreaks also fell by 47%.

Experts acknowledge the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe in the significant drop in reported zoonotic diseases in humans and foodborne outbreaks. The drop ranged from 7% to 53%, depending on the reported disease, said the report.

Possible factors behind the large decrease in cases include changes in health seeking behaviour, restrictions on travel and events, the closing of restaurants, quarantine, lockdown, and other mitigation measures such as the use of masks, physical distancing and hand sanitisation.

The next most commonly reported diseases were yersiniosis (5,668) and infections caused by Shigatoxin-producing E.coli (4,446). Listeriosis was the fifth most reported zoonosis (1,876 cases), mainly affecting people over the age of 64.

The report also monitors foodborne outbreaks in the EU, events during which at least two people contract the same illness from the same contaminated food. A total of 3,086 foodborne outbreaks were reported in 2020. Salmonella remained the most frequently detected agent and caused about 23% outbreaks. The most common sources of salmonellosis outbreaks were eggs, egg products and pig meat.

The report also includes data on Mycobacterium bovis/caprae, Brucella, Trichinella, Echinococcus, Toxoplasma gondii, rabies, Q fever and tularaemia.

The findings are based on the annual EU One Health zoonosis report, by the European Food Safety Authority and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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