How can you Help Detect Fooodborne Disease How can you Help Detect Fooodborne Disease
National Institute of Aging

You Can Help Detect and Solve Outbreaks of Foodborne Disease Foodborne Illness Basics Foodborne illnesses, or “food poisoning,” are enteric (gastrointestinal) infections caused by food that contain harmful germs, like Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Listeria. Most illnesses happen suddenly and last a short time, and most people get better without treatment. Foodborne illnesses can be more serious, especially for people at higher risk for complications. Foods that are commonly linked to outbreaks of illnesses are meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, produce, and processed foods. Also, some types of animals or pets can carry these germs and can make people sick. Foodborne Disease Outbreaks Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from a foodborne illness. Many of these cases occur one by one, but some illnesses are part of outbreaks. If a large number of people have the same illness in a given period and area, it’s called a cluster. The cluster is called an outbreak when an investigation of ill persons in a cluster finds they have something in common to explain how they all got the same illness. Finding what the source of the outbreak is important, because it still may be making people sick. By investigating outbreaks, we can stop them so more people don’t get sick, and we can learn about what went wrong, to keep similar outbreaks from happening in the future. How You Can Help You play an important role in helping the network of people and organizations who investigate foodborne disease outbreaks. Three ways you can help when you’re sick with a foodborne illness: 1.Report Foodborne Illness to Your Health Department Contact your local or state health department to report your foodborne illness. How you can help: Reporting your illness and symptoms to your local or state health department helps them identify potential foodborne disease outbreaks. Health departments track reports of illnesses and look for clusters of people with similar symptoms and exposures. If you or someone you know became ill from eating a certain food or from contact with an animal, report it to your local or state health department. 2.Talk to Your Health Care Provider Talk to your health care provider about testing you for foodborne illness. How you can help: Health care providers can order stool or blood testsExternal Web Site Icon that can tell them if you have a foodborne illness. These tests are sent to laboratories where germs are cultured (grown) from your sample and the results are uploaded to a database called PulseNet. PulseNet is a network made up of local and state public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections. 3.Write Down What You Ate and What You Did Photo: Hands writing in notebookIf you get sick from a foodborne illness, make a food diary and write everything down that you can remember eating in the days before you started to become ill, including any restaurants or special events you may have attended. It is also important to write down any contact with pets or other animals you remember in the days before you got sick. Gather and save any food receipts you have kept from the grocery store, market, or restaurants. You may be asked to share these with investigators.