More than a quarter of a million confirmed Campylobacter cases were reported in Europe in 2017, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Campylobacteriosis is the most commonly reported gastrointestinal disease in Europe and has been since 2005. Although there was a significant increasing trend from 2008 to 2017 it has been stable during the last five years (2013 to 2017).
For 2017, 29 countries reported 250,826 cases of campylobacteriosis, of which 250,161 were confirmed. In 2016, the same number of countries reported 250,267 cases and 248,752 confirmed.
The poultry reservoir including environmental transmission, direct animal contact, consumption and preparation of poultry meat, is estimated to account for up to 80 percent of cases. Handling, preparing and consuming broiler meat is thought to make up for 20 to 30 percent of human cases with proper kitchen hygiene required to avoid cross-contamination.
Children under five years are most affected by campylobacteriosis. In 2017, this age group accounted for 13.4 percent of the 249,776 confirmed cases with known age. Higher rates in males than females were observed in five of the six age groups.
Reported deaths attributed to campylobacteriosis increased from 62 in 2016 to 72 in 2017. Of deaths in confirmed cases, 76.4 percent were in the age group 65 years and older.
From 2013 to 2017, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom reported the most cases per year. Nine member states, including the Czech Republic and Spain, reported significantly increasing trends in this period. In 2017, Germany (69,178 cases) and the U.K. (63,304) accounted for 53 percent of confirmed cases. The lowest number of infections was recorded by Cyprus (20) and Latvia (59).
A newspaper report earlier this year about a question from Anton Hofreiter, a Green Party representative in Germany, detailed how every second chicken sold in the country was contaminated with Campylobacter in 2017 compared to less than one in three in 2011. The number of colony forming units per gram to show the level of contamination was not revealed. The percentage found in slaughterhouses was 78.8 versus 40.9 percent in 2011.
The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) statistics show 51.8 percent of 407 samples of fresh chicken meat (not frozen, without skin) at the retail level were contaminated with Campylobacter compared to 47.2 percent in 2016 from 428 samples. Sampling did not take into account the origin of the meat.
A sampling of carcasses via neck skin is done at slaughterhouse level. In slaughterhouses, 22.7 percent of 370 neck skin samples taken were above 1,000 cfu/g in 2017 compared to 24.1 percent in 2016 of 274 samples. Sampling was done after chilling and before further processing.
According to EU regulation on Campylobacter in slaughterhouses, no more than 1,000 CFU may be detectable per gram of meat. At least 60 percent of tested chickens must comply with this limit.
Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Sweden had the highest notification rates while the lowest were reported in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania. Compared with 2016, notification rates increased in 10 countries and fell in 17 nations.
In Sweden, an outbreak of Campylobacter due to contaminated poultry meat resulted in more than 5,000 additional cases from August 2016 to June 2017. This almost doubled domestic human infections in the country in the period compared with previous years.
Human cases of campylobacteriosis followed a clear seasonality consistent with previous years, with most reported from June to August. Small January peaks were observed from 2013 to 2016 and in 2017, a small peak occurred in March. This area was recently looked at and findings were published in the Eurosurveillance journal.
In Switzerland, smaller winter peaks have been linked to seasonal consumption of meat fondue. The March winter peak was attributed to an outbreak in Sweden linked to the increase of Campylobacter in a domestic broiler abattoir.
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