The Auglaize County medical director this week reminded residents to be careful to keep bacteria at bay when cooking out or picnicing this summer.
Medical Director Dr. Juan Torres said rates of foodborne disease have gone down slightly since a study in 1999, but it is still something to be careful about.
In 1999, one in four Americans had a food-related illness compared to one in six, about 48 million, in 2010, Torres said citing the study.
He said in 1999 there were 5,000 deaths related to foodborne illness, compared to 3,000 in 2010.
Approximately 128,000 Americans are hospitalized every year from foodborne diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of foodborne illness cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Torres said the most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, very young, or those who already have an illness that reduces their immune system function, or in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism.
The spectrum of foodborne diseases also is constantly changing, according to information from the CDC.
“It’s still a problem,” Torres said. “What needs to be cooked needs to be cooked, what needs to be cold needs to be cold, surfaces need to be cleaned.”
Care especially needs to be taken around raw meat, poultry, eggs, unpasteurized milk and shellfish, as well as raw fruits and vegetables.
Meat, poultry and eggs should be cooked thoroughly using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat.
Food should not be cross-contaminated — hands should be washed thoroughly, and utensils and cutting boards cleaned after coming into contact with raw meat or poultry before they touch another food. Cooked meat should go on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the meat when it was raw.
Leftovers should be refrigerated promptly as bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature. Refrigerate anything that won’t be eaten within four hours.
Wash produce to remove visible dirt and grime and remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Be careful not to contaminate them when slicing and don’t leave cut produce at room temperature for several hours.
Always wash hands before preparing food.
Torres also advised reporting any problems to the local health department to make sure nothing spreads.
It’s important for public health authorities to know how a particular disease is spreading so they can take the appropriate steps to stop it.
Foodborne diseases are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverage.
As the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, often the first symptoms, show up as nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.
While there are more than 250 different foodborne diseases, the most common are caused by bacteria and viruses known as campylobacter, salmonella, E. coli and Norwalk, according to the CDC.
Treatment varies, but most often requires replacing lost fluids and electrolytes through increased fluid intake and over the counter medications.
A health care provider should be consulted for diarrheal illness accompanied by a high fever, bloody stools, prolonged vomiting that keeps liquids from being kept down, signs of dehydration and illness that lasts more than three days.