Mar 31, 2012

Food Poisoning's Hidden Legacy: Scientific American @marynmck

...It is a scary idea that food poisoning—which we think of as lasting just a few days—could instead have lifelong aftereffects. The incidence of such “sequelae,” in medical parlance, has been thought to be low, but not many researchers studied the problem until recently. New findings by several scientific teams suggest the phenomenon is more common than anyone thought.

A Common Problem?
Foodborne disease has an enormous public health impact even if you count only the initial, acute episodes of illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2011 that the U.S. sees 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths every year from foodborne organisms. (The European Union had 48,964 cases and 46 deaths in 2009, the most recent year tallied.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service calculates the cost of foodborne illnesses just from bacterial infection to be at least $6.7 billion, counting medical care, premature deaths and lost productivity. Re­searchers who attempt to track chronic effects say that the actual bill is much higher.

“People don’t understand the full consequences of foodborne disease,” says Kirk Smith of the Minnesota Department of Health, which lends its investigators around the U.S. “They think you get diarrhea for a few days and then you are better. They don’t understand that there is a whole range of chronic sequelae. And although any of them may not be common individually, when you put them together they add up to a lot.”

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