The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 76 million cases of food-borne illness a year in the United States. The problem sends nearly 325,000 people a year to the hospital; 5,000 a year die from it. The young, the old and the immune-compromised are hit hardest.
One of the main reasons for this is that many sick people don’t seek attention, resulting in most food-borne infections going undiagnosed and unreported. Of those who do, many are not tested. In the case of salmonellosis, the CDC estimates that 38 cases occur for every one that’s actually reported.
Of those that are admitted to hospitals, stool cultures are rarely taken due to the length of time – a few days – that it takes for results to come back. By then the patient has usually been released – unfortunate, because stool cultures are the standard diagnostic test for food-borne illness.
In addition, many doctors try to quickly diagnose the symptoms as appendicitis or a gastrointestinal virus, rather than take the steps to guarantee that it isn’t a food-borne illness.
Although infections caused by E. coli O157:H7, campylobacter, cryptosporidium, listeria and yersinia have declined, salmonella infections have showed the smallest declines. Of 15,806 laboratory-diagnosed cases of food-borne, more cases were from salmonella than any other pathogen.