Rates of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections in Australia have almost halved since the lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic that began in March.
The Food Safety Information Council revealed that since the COVID-19 shutdown started, reported rates of these infections per 100,000 people have declined compared to the past two years.
This shows the effectiveness of good handwashing, and that there has been less bulk catering as fewer people have been eating out or entertaining, according to the health promotion charity.
In April, 839 Salmonella infections were recorded compared to 1,383 in 2019. For May, 818 cases were reported versus 1,172 in the same period the year before, according to the Australian Department of Health’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. These figures convert to a reporting rate of 3.4 in April compared to 5.5 in April 2019 and 3.3 in May versus 4.7 in May 2019.
For Campylobacter, 1,438 cases were recorded in April compared with 2,427 in 2019 and 1,830 for May compared with 2,687 in 2019. Rates were 8.5 in April 2020 compared with 14.3 the year before and 10.8 in May 2020 versus 15.8 in May the year before.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) reports were also down from 51 in April 2019 to 21 this year and from 56 in May 2019 to 30 in 2020.
Handwashing and social distancing impact
Cathy Moir, council chair, said in a normal year there are an estimated annual 4.1 million cases of food poisoning that result in 31,920 hospitalizations, 86 deaths and 1 million visits to doctors.
“There have been drops in other infectious diseases such as influenza and measles during this period which shows how effective good handwashing and social distancing can be in controlling infectious diseases. Also, food poisoning is more commonly identified when food is prepared in bulk and there has been less entertaining and eating out with larger groups of people during the lockdown,” she said.
“But we mustn’t become complacent – our 2019 handwashing study found 29 percent of Australians said they didn’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet and more than a third admit they don’t always wash their hands before touching food. Now we have better handwashing as a result of COVID-19 we urge people to continue to wash their hands often even after the pandemic ends.”
FSIC also announced the theme for Australian Food Safety Week Nov. 14 to 21 will be “Food Safety – it’s in your hands.”
The group will aim to build upon good behavior established during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to reduce the amount of foodborne disease.
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