E.Coli Costs Canada $403.9 Million Per Year

US - Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) costs C$403.9 million per year through primary infections and long term health outcomes, research has found.
calendar icon 19 December 2013
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Over 93 per cent of VTEC infections are from the O157 E.Coli strain, and Bioniche One Health has developed a cattle vaccine to reduce disease burden.

The statistic appears in a study approved for publication in the Journal of Food Protection.

“Reduction of E. coli O157 shedding by cattle offers an opportunity to significantly reduce public health risk,” said Dr. Paul Sockett, an expert in foodborne diseases, the former Director of the Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections Division of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the principal author of the study.

“Four key public sectors are impacted by concerns relating to the severity of human illness and the prevalence of VTEC infection in cattle and other ruminants: (i) public health, (ii) agriculture, (iii) food processing and retail, and (iv) national and local government organizations responsible for acting on reports of human illness or animal or product contamination.”

The authors of the study used a cost of illness methodology to delineate and quantify the costs associated with VTEC infection in Canada. The authors focused on medical costs and productivity losses, which were aggregated to give a total cost.

Historical notifiable disease data (the number of laboratory confirmed cases reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada) was utilized in the analysis Only a fraction of VTEC cases are captured by disease surveillance systems, leaving uncertainty around the exact number of cases within the community.

This was addressed in the study using an under-reporting factor. The study authors note that, because the costs exclude other public and private sector costs, the actual costs to society of VTEC infection are much higher.

The research comments on the distribution of human VTEC infection cases in Canada, whereby the highest rates of human infection have been associated with proximity to high densities of cattle.

Alberta public health authorities have identified a trend of higher incidence of human E. coli O157 infection in that province, with incidence as high as 29.1 cases per 100,000 population in south-central Alberta compared with an average of 2.8 per 100,000 for Canada during the same year.

When considering the costs of implementing control and/or prevention interventions versus the costs of disease over a longer period of time, the study authors suggest that, if the current situation were to remain unchanged over the next 5 or 10 years, the discounted present value of those future costs would be approximately $1.8 to $2.09 billion and $3.2 to $3.9 billion for five and 10 years, respectively.

The study authors expect that the information provided by the study will contribute to improved assessment of alternative approaches to reducing or preventing human VTEC infection, including cattle vaccines (on their own or with other interventions).


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