Viruses have edged out bacteria as the leading cause of foodborne disease outbreaks, according to a recent surveillance report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During an 11-year period ending in 2008, US public health agencies reported 13 405 foodborne illness outbreaks to the CDC. Those outbreaks, defined as 2 or more cases of a similar illness from eating a common food, resulted in 273 120 disease cases, 9109 hospitalizations, and 200 deaths. Of nearly 8000 outbreaks in which a cause was identified, 3633, or 45%, were traced to viruses and 3613, also 45%, were linked with bacteria. Chemical and toxic agents caused 9% of outbreaks and parasites caused 1%.