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FoodNet Surveillance - What is FoodNet?
The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) is the principal foodborne disease component of CDC's Emerging Infections Program (EIP). FoodNet is a collaborative project of the CDC, ten EIP sites (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The project consists of active surveillance for foodborne diseases and related epidemiologic studies designed to help public health officials better understand the epidemiology of foodborne diseases in the United States.

Foodborne diseases include infections caused by bacteria such as Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia enterocolitica, and parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora. In 1995, FoodNet surveillance began in five locations: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota and Oregon. Each year the surveillance area, or catchment, has expanded, with the inclusion of additional counties or additional sites (New York and Maryland in 1998, Tennessee in 2000, Colorado in 2001 and New Mexico in 2004). The total population of the 2004 bacterial catchment is 44.5 million persons, or 15.1% of the United States population.

FoodNet provides a network for responding to new and emerging foodborne diseases of national importance, monitoring the burden of foodborne diseases, and identifying the sources of specific foodborne diseases.

Why is FoodNet important to public health?

Foodborne diseases are common; an estimated 76 million cases occur each year in the United States. Although most of these infections cause mild illness, severe infections and serious complications do occur. The public health challenges of foodborne diseases are changing rapidly; in recent years, new and emerging foodborne pathogens have been described and changes in food production have led to new food safety concerns. Foodborne diseases have been associated with many different foods, including some previously thought to be safe, such as eggs and fruit juice, both of which have transmitted Salmonella during recent outbreaks. Public health officials in the nine EIP sites are monitoring foodborne diseases, conducting epidemiologic and laboratory studies of these diseases, and responding to new challenges from these diseases. Information gained through this network will lead to new interventions and prevention strategies for addressing the public health problem of foodborne diseases.

How is FoodNet different from other foodborne disease surveillance systems?

Current "passive" surveillance systems rely upon reporting of foodborne diseases by clinical laboratories to state health departments, which in turn report to CDC. Although foodborne diseases are extremely common, only a fraction of these illnesses are routinely reported to CDC via these surveillance systems. This is because a complex chain of events must occur before such a case is reported, and a break at any link along the chain will result in a case not being reported. FoodNet is an "active" surveillance system, meaning public health officials frequently contact laboratory directors to find new cases of foodborne diseases and report these cases electronically to CDC. In addition, FoodNet is designed to monitor each of the events that occur along the foodborne diseases pyramid and thereby allow more accurate and precise estimates and interpretation of the burden of foodborne diseases over time. Because most foodborne infections cause diarrheal illness, FoodNet focuses these efforts on persons who have a diarrheal illness.

Date: March 21, 2006
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases (DFWED)
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Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: +1(404) 639-3680
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