More than 2,500 confirmed cases of Listeria and 220 deaths were reported in Europe in 2017, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The latest annual epidemiological report found 2,520 cases were reported and 2,502 were confirmed with 227 deaths compared to 2,527 infections in 2016.

There were 2,549 cases reported in 2018, according to the annual report of zoonoses published by ECDC and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

A worrying increase
ECDC said the trend in cases is worrying and demands more attention be paid to the prevention and control of the disease and outbreaks.

Raising awareness of listeriosis and risky food in vulnerable groups is important, especially among the elderly where the majority of cases currently occur, added the agency.

Thirty EU/EEA Member States reported listeriosis figures in 2017. Belgian data had 80 percent national coverage and Spanish data did not have national coverage.

Germany and France had the most confirmed cases with 670 and 375 respectively, making up 44 percent of all infections reported in the EU/EEA. These two countries also recorded the most fatalities.

The highest reporting rates were in Iceland and Finland, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and Belgium. The lowest were in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania.

Confirmed listeriosis cases from 2013 to 2017 show a statistically significant increasing trend, according to officials. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain have reported rising trends. No countries have observed significant decreases.

The rise is likely partly due to the increased size of the elderly susceptible population, according to ECDC.

Among cases with information on hospitalisation status, almost all were hospitalized. Of confirmed listeriosis cases with known gender, 55.2 percent were males and 44.8 percent females. The most affected age group were those over 64 years old.

Yersinia in third place
For yersiniosis in 2017, 28 countries reported 6,890 confirmed cases compared to 6,946 in 2016.

It was the third most commonly reported zoonosis in the EU and Yersinia enterocolitica was the main causative species. The main reservoir for Yersinia enterocolitica in Europe are pigs and cattle.

Pigs are the top source of Yersinia enterocolitica infections and many cases are related to consumption of undercooked contaminated pork or cross-contamination of other food during the handling and preparation of raw pork.

As in previous years, Germany had the highest number with 2,579 or 37.4 percent of all cases but Finland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic had the highest rates. Data from France, Italy and Spain did not have national coverage.

For the period of 2008 to 2017, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom reported significantly increasing trends while Finland, Germany and Sweden had decreasing trends.

Among the 6,874 confirmed cases for which gender was known, 54.1 percent were male. Notification rates were highest in 0 to 4-year-old children and decreased with age.

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