Research Paper: Foodborne Illness Foodborne Diseases and Illnesses

Pages: 5 (1547 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Disease  ·  Buy This Paper

Foodborne Illness

Foodborne diseases and illnesses are becoming increasing severe and widespread in the world. This type of illness is defined by the World Health Organization ( WHO) as follows: "Foodborne illnesses are defined as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. Every person is at risk of foodborne illness" (Food safety and foodborne illness: WHO)

The diseases that can be caused by bacteria and toxins in food and water and include illnesses such as Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis and the devastating disease of cholera (Food safety and foodborne illness: WHO). Salmonellosis is a disease transmitted in food that occurs in many regions of the world and is caused by the Salmonella bacteria often found in foodstuffs like meat and undercooked poultry, as well as in unpasteurized milk.

Campylobacteriosis is caused by a certain species of Campylobacter bacteria and "…in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis" (Food safety and foodborne illness: WHO). Other forms of this type of disease include E. coli O157:H7 and Calcivirus. Calcivius is spread in infected kitchens and by people handing foods such as oysters (Definition of Foodborne disease).

The general symptoms of these and other foodborne diseases are abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration (Foodborne Illness). However, the symptoms of these diseases can be life-threatening. In the case of campylobacteriosis a percentage of the infections may lead to various chronic health problems. These can include reactive arthritis and neurological disorders (Food safety and foodborne illness: WHO). It is also noteworthy that enterohaemorrhagic E. coli which cause intestinal bleeding have also emerged as a serious form of foodborne disease. (Food safety and foodborne illness: WHO). This may cause death especially in young children and babies.

Problem Statement

Foodborne disease is significant from both a healthcare and environmental point-of-view. In fact it is often environmental factors that create the situation for the increase in foodborne diseases.

The number of people who are affected by foodborne disease especially in the developed world is alarming. According to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control, approximately seventy-six million cases of foodborne disease are recorded each year in the United States alone (Focus on Epidemiology. Houston Health, (2001). Included in these figures are about 323,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, which have been linked to foodborne illness each year in the country (Focus on Epidemiology. Houston Health, 2001).

A report for the World Health Organization states that while it is difficult to estimate the extent of foodborne illness globally it has been reported that in 2005 1.8 million people died from diarrhea linked to foodborne disease (Food safety and foodborne illness).

Another complicating factor with this type of disease is that it often affects large numbers of people. A good example of this is the outbreak of salmonellosis in 1994 due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the U.S.A. This outbreak affected two-hundred thousand people ( Food safety and foodborne illness). There are many other examples of the large number of people who can be seriously affected by this type of disease and this in turn stresses the importance of being aware of the uses of these diseases and the need to prevent their occurrence and spread.

Consequently, foodborne illness can be seen as an environmental problem from a number of perspectives. The most relevant perspective in a contemporary sense is that the environment is changing due to global warming and this is a contributing factor that in many instances increases the risk of foodborne illness. Related to this is the fact that the disease is most dangerous and deadly when it comes to those individuals with reduced immune system defenses, such as the elderly and very young. This means that it is a health risk in the public domain that targets the most vulnerable in our society. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is also a problem that often occurs in heavily populated and dense occupied urban areas, where poverty and other social and economic factors may worsen the effects of the disease.

Literature Review

There is a growing body of literature that explores this important topic. One of the most informative sources for the latest data, statistics and information is the World Health Organization. Reports on the causative factors and the spread or incidence of this form of illness in the world leads to the conclusion that foodborne disease are becoming increasingly problematic and that environmental factors also impact this healthcare issue. These Reports emphasize that environmental variables have become a serious concern as it can increase the dangers and propensity towards these disease that are possibly already present in vulnerable populations. This refers to the fact that the incidence of these types of diseases is often linked to poor economic and social conditions. A case in point is the present situation in Haiti, where the recent earthquake coupled with the collapse of the healthcare system and infrastructure has resulted in an increase in foodborne diseases like cholera.

Another valuable source of information comes from local and regional reports, as well as up-to-date and verifiable online reports and studied. As noted above, this type of disease is a matter of grave concern even in developed counties like the United Sates. As one report states; "Each year, 76 million people in the U.S. get sick from contaminated food. Common culprits include bacteria, parasites and viruses" (Foodborne Illness). A report from Houston for example states that the three most prevalent foodborne diseases in the city are hepatitis A, shigella and salmonella (Focus on Epidemiology (Houston Health, 2001). This report also states that between 1995 and 1999 "…an average of 315 cases of hepatitis A are reported every year, followed by an average of 282 cases of shigella and 231 cases of salmonella" (Focus on Epidemiology. Houston Health, 2001).

Analysis

The environmental health problems that foodborne diseases pose are severe. It is a form of disease that can occur in any city and in any region of the world. Furthermore, what makes this type of disease so serious is that it can increase in severity and extent with alarming rapidity in large urban populations. In essence this means that the spread of cholera, for example, can create and environmental and social situation which can lead to illness and death on a large scale. This in turn can lead to social and economic breakdown in a region or city with further negative consequences.

Combating this disease therefore requires a number or precautionary and preventative factors. The first and most obvious of these is a cognizance and awareness of the ever-present possibility of this type of disease. This requires continuous vigilance on the part of the healthcare authorities and the individual in the society. One has to be continually aware of the fact that any outbreak of foodborne disease should be swiftly contained and controlled before it reaches epidemic proportions. As one report notes; "As few as 10 E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in an undercooked patty of ground beef can spark a serious infection" (Foodborne diseases take heavy toll on public health).

Furthermore, it is important for the average consumer to be aware of aspects that can lead to foodborne disease. This includes factors such as paying attention to cleanliness, especially in the kitchen and when preparing food; as well as keeping certain foods separate and checking the expiry dates on cans and containers of foodstuffs. It is also important to be mindful of factors like temperature. As one study on this aspect notes;

It's important to refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after grocery shopping. Food safety experts stress the "2-hour rule" -- because harmful bacteria can multiply in the "danger zone" (between 40° and 140° F), perishable foods should not… [END OF PREVIEW]

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