eib140_covertnFoodborne pathogens impose over $15.5 billion (2013 dollars) in economic burden on the U.S. public each year. Just five pathogens cause 90 percent of this burden. Estimates of economic burden per case vary greatly, ranging from $202 for Cyclospora cayetanensis to $3.3 million for Vibrio vulnificus.

  • Fifteen pathogens cause 95 percent or more of the foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States for which a specific pathogen cause can be identified. They are Campylobacter spp., Clostridium perfringens, Cryptosporidium spp., Cyclospora cayetanensis, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, Salmonella non-typhoidal species, Shigella spp., STEC O157, STEC non-O157, Toxoplasma gondii, Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio other non-cholera species, and Yersinia enterocolitica.
  • Eighty-four percent of the economic burden from these 15 pathogens is due to deaths. This reflects both the importance the public places on preventing deaths and the fact that the measure of economic burden used for nonfatal illnesses (medical costs + productivity loss) is a conservative measure of willingness to pay to prevent nonfatal illness.
  • Pathogens’ rankings by total economic burden generally follow their rankings by economic burden due to pathogen-related deaths, with notable exceptions.  Campylobacter causes slightly more deaths per year than Norovirus, yet because of the very large number of nonfatal cases caused by Norovirus, its economic burden is higher than that of Campylobacter. The high medical costs and productivity losses caused by Clostridium perfringens contribute to its total economic burden exceeding those of three other pathogens with higher economic burden due to deaths (Vibrio vulnificus, Yersinia enterocolitica, and STEC O157).
  • Estimates of the incidence of foodborne disease acquired in the United States, and therefore economic burden estimates, are very uncertain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the foodborne disease incidence from these 15 pathogens could range from 4.6 million to 15.5 million cases in a typical year. Based on this range of incidence estimates, economic burden could range from $4.8 billion to $36.6 billion (2013 dollars).

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