The latest estimates from the Department of Agriculture suggest that foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. $15.5 billion each year. “Economic burden of a disease is not the same thing as the impact of a disease on economic indicators like gross domestic product or even the out-of-pocket cost of treating illness,” states USDA’s Economic Research Service report released last week. According to the report, just five pathogens cause 90 percent of the burden — Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus and Campylobacter. The economic burden of a single case can range greatly from $202 for Cyclospora cayetanensis to $3.3 million for Vibrio vulnificus or $1.7 million for Listeria monocytogenes. Campylobacter causes slightly more deaths per year than Norovirus, but because of the very large number of non-fatal cases caused by Norovirus, its economic burden is higher than that of Campylobacter. And the high medical costs and productivity losses caused by Clostridium perfringens are why its total economic burden is higher than those of three other pathogens with higher economic burden due to deaths — Vibrio vulnificus, Yersinia enterocolitica, and STEC O157. Deaths, medical costs and productivity loss were the three types of costs analyzed, and deaths contributed to 84 percent of the economic burden of all 15 pathogens studied. The report stated that this reflects how much people want to prevent deaths.