Social distancing to combat COVID-19 has led to a decrease in foodborne infections in Spain, according to researchers.

Data from the Epidemiological Surveillance Network in Madrid covering January 2020 to late June 2020, which overlaps with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, shows that compared with the first half of 2019, there was a marked decline in reports of foodborne infections.

Campylobacter infections decreased from 1,308 in 2019 to 391 in the first six months of 2020 and Salmonella from 462 in 2019 to 111 cases this past year.

The study, published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, also looked at sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

“One important driver for the reduction of both gastrointestinal infections and STDs in the first semester of 2020 is the social distancing during the months where Madrid was affected by the pandemic. We also believe that fear of coronavirus infection may have led patients to not seek appropriate medical assistance,” said scientists.

“It would be interesting to see if the diagnosis of these diseases increases in the upcoming period when lockdown is reduced, or if lessons learnt from this pandemic will help to reduce person-to person transmission of infections.”

Researchers said limiting food consumption outside of households because of lockdown measures may have impacted the reduced incidence of foodborne infections.

“But, to the contrary, a study in Catalonia, in the north-eastern region of Spain, showed that Salmonella outbreaks over a 10-year period were increasing in households compared with other settings.”

Travel restrictions may have also played a role in the reduction of infectious diseases during COVID-19, added researchers.

Picture in Taiwan
Meanwhile, another study has looked at the impact of coronavirus on infectious diseases in Taiwan.

The number of notifiable infectious disease cases between January and September 2019 and 2020 were obtained from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control database. The total was 21,895 in 2020, which was lower than the 24,469 figure in 2019.

Among the 11 fecal-oral transmitted diseases looked at, a decrease in cases was observed in eight of them in 2020 compared to 2019. They included amoebiasis, listeriosis, acute flaccid paralysis and poliomyelitis, typhoid fever, acute hepatitis A viral infections, Enterohemorrhagic E. coli infections and paratyphoid fever. Combining the 11 diseases together, there was a reduction of only 156 cases from 2019 to 2020.

Listeriosis declined from 145 infections in 2019 to 111 in 2020, Hepatitis A from 73 to 65 and Enterohemorrhagic E. coli infection from one to zero. Shigellosis went up from 107 in 2019 to 115 in 2020.

The decrease was attributed to universal hygiene, social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, being quarantined, and reducing outdoor activities, according to the study.

A drop in the number of imported infectious diseases was attributed predominantly to strict measures in border control.

Listeriosis was down from one imported case in 2019 to none in 2020, toxoplasmosis from two to none and Shigellosis from 38 in 2019 to 21 in 2020. Enterohemorrhagic E. coli was zero in both years.

Several infection-control interventions for COVID-19 also had a preventive effect on other diseases, said researchers.

“Therefore, we recommend the retention of certain population hygiene measures in the future given the impressive inter-year reduction in notifiable infectious disease incidence.”

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