COVID-19 measures continue to affect Norway’s foodborne illness statistics

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still being felt in figures for foodborne infections, most of which fell in Norway last year.

In 2021, there has been a decline in most infectious diseases spread from food, water and animals and are under reporting. This is probably due to a lack of travel and infection control measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI).

As in previous years, Campylobacter was behind the most reported cases, followed by Escherichia coli and Salmonella. However, the World Health Organization said the pandemic has made it difficult to interpret trends.

An earlier report revealed 25 foodborne outbreaks in 2021 in Norway which is similar to the number in 2020 but decreased compared to 46 in 2019 and 52 in 2018.

Campylobacter and Salmonella characters
Most diseases were caused by Campylobacter with 2055 reported in 2021 versus 2422 in 2020.

The proportion of cases infected abroad was only 11 percent in 2021 and 2020, compared to 2017 to 2019, before the pandemic, when it was about half of the cases.

Of the 1,196 home cases, 526 have been hospitalized. Of the 223 patients abroad, most were infected in Spain, including the Canary Islands, Mallorca, Turkey and Poland.

For salmonellosis, 390 cases in 2021 and 440 cases in 2020 fell by more than half compared to before the pandemic. The decline is primarily due to fewer infections abroad, linked to less travel.

The largest country where patients were reported abroad was Spain, including the Canary Islands and Mallorca.

Nearly half of the 390 cases have been hospitalized. Intestinal salmonella caused the most diseases, followed by typhimurium, Newport, and monophasic Salmonella typhi.

There has been an increase in the proportion of people hospitalized with campylobacter and salmonellosis. One possible explanation is that fewer people have gone to the doctor because of the pandemic, so only those with serious and long-term symptoms have been diagnosed, according to the FHI.

Escherichia coli rises while Listeria decreases
In 2021, 438 cases of E. coli were reported, up from 331 in 2020. The total number is still lower than it was before the pandemic but is consistent for household infections. Escherichia coli O103 was behind the most cases, followed by O157, O26 and O146.

The infection led to the hospitalization of 145 patients and three cases of hemolytic hemolytic syndrome (HUS), two of whom were children. These included E. coli O157, O26 and O113.

In 2021, 20 cases of listeriosis were reported with 14 cases in Norway. They were all taken to the hospital.

There were more cases in the 60-69 and 80-89 age groups. Seven patients were women and 13 were men. The number of reports is down from 37 in 2020, and there was no outbreak in 2021.

Reported cryptosporidiosis cases fell in 2021 to 355, the same level as the years before its peak in 2020 to 483. More than 80 people were hospitalized last year. But in 2020 and 2021, the number of home infections increased compared to previous years.

In 2021, 85 cases of Yersinia were reported with all but two cases due to Yersinia coli. Most of them were in February, April and May, and 36 of them were hospitalized. In 2020, 83 cases were registered.

Last year, there were most cases in the 20-29 age groups, 30-39 and 0-9. 45 cases were women and 40 were men. In 2020 and 2021, there was a decrease in the number of patients abroad, while local infections increased.

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