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Zoonoses are infections and diseases that are naturally transmissible, directly or indirectly, for example via contaminated foodstuffs, between animals and humans. The severity of these diseases in humans varies from subclinical infection or mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions. In order to prevent zoonoses from occurring, it is important to identify which animals and foodstuffs are the main sources of infection. For this purpose information aimed at protecting human health is collected and analysed from all European Union Member States.

In 2012, 27 Member States submitted information on the occurrence of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food‑borne outbreaks to the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority. Furthermore, information on cases of zoonoses reported in humans was provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In addition, three European countries that were not European Union Member States provided information. The European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control jointly analysed the data, the results of which are published in this annual European Union Summary Report, which covers 15 zoonoses and food-borne outbreaks.

In 2012, the notification rate and confirmed number of cases of human campylobacteriosis in the European Union decreased compared with 2011. Human campylobacteriosis, however, continued to be the most commonly reported zoonosis with 214,268 confirmed cases. The number of confirmed cases of campylobacteriosis in the European Union has followed a significant increasing trend in the last five years (2008-2012), along with a clear seasonal trend. The proportion of Campylobacter-positivefood and animal samples remained mainly at levels similar to previous years, with the occurrence of Campylobacter continuing to be high in broiler meat.

The number of salmonellosis cases in humans decreased by 4.7 % compared with 2011. A statistically significant decreasing trend in the European Union was observed over the period 2008‑2012. In total, 91,034 confirmed human cases were reported in 2012. It is assumed that the observed reduction in salmonellosis cases is mainly a result of the successful Salmonella control programmes in poultry populations. Most Member States met their Salmonella reduction targets for poultry, and Salmonella is declining in these animal populations. In foodstuffs, Salmonella was most often detected in fresh broiler meat. The food categories with the highest proportion of products not complying with the European Union Salmonella criteria were minced meat and meat preparations, meat products, as well as live bivalve molluscs.

The number of listeriosis cases in humans increased slightly compared with 2011, and 1,642 confirmed human cases were reported in 2012. A statistically significant increasing trend in the European Union was observed over the period 2008‑2012, though only slowly increasing, along with a seasonal pattern. As in previous years, a high fatality rate (17.8 %) was reported among the cases. A total of 198 deaths due to listeriosis were reported by 18 Member States in 2012, which was the highest number of fatal cases reported since 2006. Listeria monocytogenes was seldom detected above the legal safety limit from ready-to-eat foods at point of retail. Samples exceeding this limit were most often found in fishery products.

A total of 5,671 confirmed verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections were reported in 2012, which was a decrease of 40 % compared with 2011. Of those cases in which the serogroup was known, most were caused by serogroup O157, followed by O26 and O91. There was an increasing European Union trend of confirmed human verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections in 2008–2012. Even without the 2011 data the European Union trend for verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections during 2008–2010 was significantly increasing. Human pathogenic verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli strains were detected by the reporting Member States from fresh bovine meat occasionally and at low levels. The human pathogenic verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli serogroups isolated from the bovine meat and cattle samples included VTEC O157, O26, O91, O103 and O145.

The number of confirmed human tuberculosis cases due to Mycobacterium bovis in the European Union in 2012 was 125. This was a decrease compared with 2011, with a few Member States accounting for the majority of the reported cases. The reported prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle increased slightly at European Union level, but remained at a very low level. This slight increase was, however, due to one Member State that reported an increase in prevalence of bovine tuberculosis for the fourth consecutive year.

The number of confirmed brucellosis cases in humans was 328 at European Union level, which was almost the same as in 2011. The number of brucellosis-positive cattle, and sheep and goat herds continued to decrease, although marginally compared with 2011.

Trichinella caused 301 confirmed human cases in the European Union. Although the number of cases was slightly higher in 2012 than in 2011, human trichinellosis cases remained at a low level in the European Union compared with 2009 and previous years. In 2012, the prevalence of Trichinella in pigs was similar to that observed in 2011. The parasite was more prevalent in wildlife than in farmed animals. However, seven out of the nine strong-evidence outbreaks reported were due to consumption of pig meat.

Toxoplasma was reported by the Member States from pigs, sheep, goats, hunted wild boar and hunted deer, in 2011 and 2012. In addition, positive findings were detected in cats (the natural hosts), cattle and dogs as well as several other animal species, indicating the wide distribution of the parasite among different animal and wildlife species.

One domestically acquired human case and one imported human case of rabies were reported in the European Union in 2012. The general decreasing trend in the total number of rabies cases in animals observed in previous years was reversed in 2012, as there was an increase in the rabies cases reported in animals. In the European Union, the number of cases reported in farm animals and foxes increased.

In 2012, a total of 643 confirmed cases of Q fever in humans were reported in the European Union. There was an overall 15.3 % decrease in the number of reported confirmed cases compared with 2011 (759 cases). All 22 reporting Member States, except one, found animals positive for Coxiella burnetii,the causative agent of Q fever, which demonstrates that the pathogen is widely distributed in the European Union. Positive findings were detected in cattle, sheep as well as goats.

A total of 232 cases of West Nile fever in humans were reported in the European Union. There was an overall 75.8 % increase in the number of reported cases compared with 2011 (132 cases), but a 33.5 % decrease compared with 2010 (349 cases). 2012 was the first year in which Member States were specifically invited to report data on West Nile virus in animals. Most data were from solipeds, notably horses, and less information was received from birds and other animal species. Test-positive solipeds were reported by Southern European countries but few test-positive horses were also reported by Central and Western European Member States.

A total of 5,363 food-borne outbreaks were reported in the European Union, resulting in 55,453 human cases, 5,118 hospitalisations and 41 deaths. Most of the reported outbreaks were caused by Salmonella,bacterial toxins, viruses and Campylobacter. The most important food sources of the outbreaks were eggs and egg products, followed by mixed food and fish and fish products. Overall, 16 waterborne outbreaks were reported in 2012, caused by calicivirus,verocytotoxigenic E. coli, Cryptosporidium parvum and rotavirus.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParma, Italy
PublisherEuropen Food Safety Authority
Number of pages312
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Seriesthe EFSA Journal
Number3547
Volume12(2)
ISSN1830-5458

    Research areas

  • Zoonoses, Monitoring, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Parasites, Food-borne outbreaks
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