June 20, 2018

New Study Looks at Cost of Salmonella Illnesses

A new study published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease looks at the cost of Salmonella outbreaks in the U.S. from 2000 to 2011. The study tried to quantify the burden of hospitalizations linked to Salmonella food poisoning, look at hospitalization characteristics among patients with salmonellosis, and examine the relationships between salmonellosis and cormobidities by outcome.

Salmonella BacteriaScientists used the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Nationwide Inpatient Sample for 2011. The four outcomes measures that were studied included in-hospital death, total amount billed by the hospitals for services, length of patient stay in the hospital, and severity of the disease.

There were 11,032 salmonellosis diagnosis in 2011 in the United States. Almost 7,500 were listed as the primary diagnoses. Eighty-six people died of their illness. And when the patients also suffered from chronic conditions, a higher total amount billed by hospitals, a longer length of stay, and greater disease severity were found. This was highest in patients who had at least four chronic health conditions.

Hospitalizations for salmonellosis increased by 27.2% from 2000 to 2011. The total amount billed by hospitals increased from $9,777.00 in 2000 to $29,690.00 in 2011. Of course, some of this cost has to be attributed to the increasing cost of health care in the United States.

These numbers indicate that the burden of salmonellosis is substantial in this country, even though, according to the CDC’s latest data from 2013, the incidence of laboratory-confirmed Salmonella infections in this country was lower in 2013 than in 2010 – 2012, but not compared with 2006 – 2008. This discrepancy is partly explained by the huge Salmonella outbreak linked to eggs in 2010.  Overall, rates of Salmonella infection have remained steady over the past 15 years.

As the population ages, more people will suffer more complications from Salmonella and other food poisoning outbreaks, increasing the probability of death from these illnesses. And despite efforts to control this pathogenic bacteria, Salmonella infections continue to be a serious problem in this country.

There are currently two Salmonella outbreaks going on in the United States, and two that have recently been declared over. A Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers imported by Andrew & Williamson has sickened almost 800 people across the country. More than 150 people have been hospitalized in that outbreak. And a Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to tomatoes sold at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota has sickened at least 64 people.

A Salmonella outbreak linked to Barber Foods frozen stuffed raw chicken breasts was declared over a month ago, even though some consumers may still have some of that product in their homes. And the Salmonella outbreak linked to Aspen Foods raw stuffed frozen chicken breasts was also declared over last month.

While food poisoning outbreaks can occur anywhere, restaurants are often the source of these illnesses. A Salmonella outbreak at the Fig & Olive restaurants in Washington D.C. and California sickened hundreds of people.  And some of these outbreaks are not solved. A Salmonella outbreak in North Dakota sickened at least 22 people in September 2015. There has been no news regarding that outbreak for more than a month.

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