I guess you liked the T-shirts?

For Babies Sake, Make Cronobacter sakazakii Reportable

According to the AP:

U.S. health officials will start formally tracking infections caused by the rare but potentially deadly germ that sickened babies and triggered a nationwide shortage of infant formula last year.

A group that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed Thursday to add infections caused by cronobacter to the list of serious conditions reported to the agency. There are about 120 infections and diseases on the national watchlist.

States will be asked, but not required, to notify the CDC about cronobacter infections, although they usually comply. Such infections are required to be reported now in only two states, Minnesota and Michigan. The change will take effect next year, though states may begin reporting earlier.

The action by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, a nonprofit group, caps months of demands from experts and food safety advocates who called for better surveillance of the deadly infections that typically strike the most vulnerable babies. The move establishes standard criteria for identifying and counting probable and confirmed cronobacter cases and recommends that states require them to be reported.

Full story.

In April of this year I wrote the following post:

The Abbott infant formula recall could have been prevented. The FDA had reports of safety failures months before the contaminated formula sickened babies and caused two deaths. 

Here is what the head of the FDA said in testimony to congress months ago:

The CDC receives reports on foodborne disease outbreaks from state, local, and territorial health departments. On average, CDC receives two to four Cronobacter case reports annually; however, because Cronobacter infection is not reportable in most states, the total number of cases that occur in the United States each year is not known.

Here is a bit of history about why having bacterial infections reportable make a difference.

California – 34 ill: From mid-November to mid-January, 9 cases of E. coli O157:H7-associated bloody diarrhea and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome had been reported in San Diego County, California and 1 child died. A total of 34 persons had bloody diarrhea, the hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or E. coli O157:H7 organisms isolated from stool during the period November 15, 1992, through January 31, 1993. E. coli O157:H7 was ultimately identified from 6 persons were indistinguishable from those of the Washington outbreak strain linked to Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California.  All the pre-formed frozen hamburgers were produced by Von’s in California and shipped to those restaurants in those states.

According to public health officials:

Improved surveillance by mandating laboratory – and physician – based reporting of cases of E coli O157:H7 infection and the hemolytic uremic syndrome might have alerted health officials to this outbreak sooner, which could have resulted in earlier investigation and the institution of measures to prevent more cases.

Clearly, had E. coli O157:H7 been reportable, public health officials in California would have caught the illnesses and most likely prevented the hamburgers from being shipped to other states.  Hundreds of people – specifically children – would not have been sickened and three would likely not have died.

The final outbreak report by the CDC found that nearly all illnesses in states other than California occurred AFTER the cluster of 34 cases that went unreported in California.

Washington – 602: On January 13, 1993, a physician reported to the Washington Department of Health a cluster of children with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and an increase in emergency room visits for bloody diarrhea. During January-February 1993, 602 patients with bloody diarrhea or HUS were reported to the state health department. 144 were hospitalized, 30 developed HUS and three died.

Idaho – 14: Following the outbreak report from Washington, the Division of Health, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, identified 14 persons with culture-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infection. 1 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Nevada – 58: On January 22, after receiving a report of a child with HUS who had eaten at a local chain A restaurant, the Clark County (Las Vegas) Health District issued a press release requesting that persons with recent bloody diarrhea contact the health department. Of 58 persons whose illnesses met the case definition 9 were hospitalized and 3 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

So, do something to prevent the next Cronobacter Sakazakii outbreak from being larger than necessary.