The rate of a severe form of Escherichia coli diarrhea significantly decreased in 2009, reaching the lowest level since 2004, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of the disease, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 infection, also met the national 2010 Healthy People target in 2009. Infection with E. coli O157 is of particular concern because in 5 percent to 10 percent of cases the infection causes kidney failure and it can be especially dangerous for children and the elderly.
The data were collected through CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, known as FoodNet, the most complete and up-to-date source of information about trends in foodborne illnesses in the United States. FoodNet conducts active surveillance for nine pathogens commonly transmitted through food, and leads studies designed to help health officials better understand how foodborne diseases are impacting Americans. Annual data are compared with data from the previous three years and with data from the first years of surveillance (1996-1998) to analyze trends and measure progress.