Over two years into the pandemic and I suppose some good news to be had?  But, in US only 66% “fully vaccinated” (two doses) and only 30% with 1st booster.  Not clear the percentage of those with the 2nd booster (I go mine).  Masks are seeming less and less to be worn and testing is also way down.  Lets hope the vaccinations keep more people out of the hospital and that the next variant is less deadly.

Food Safety News reports:

A decline in Salmonella across Australia in 2020 has been linked to actions to tackle COVID-19, according to a study.

Researchers compared Salmonella rates in 2020 to past years and looked at the impact of COVID-19 measures. Findings were published in the Communicable Diseases Intelligence journal.

To control coronavirus, Australian public health measures included border closures, physical distancing and hygiene advice.

The annual salmonellosis notification rate was 27 percent lower in 2020 than the previous 5-year median. The decline varied throughout Australia. States and territories with more stringent and frequent or longer COVID-19 measures had generally greater reductions. However, Tasmania had a 50 percent bigger reduction than the Northern Territory, despite similar restrictions.

Annual median rates in the Northern Territory are three times that of national data. The persistence of high rates in this state could indicate the importance of demographic and environmental factors, said, researchers.

A peak in notifications in February 2020 was due to a large outbreak across several states. This caused the highest monthly rate since 1991. The outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium was investigated between January and May.

State differences
Monthly and annual salmonellosis notifications per 100,000 population, for the eight states and territories for 2015 to 2020, were taken from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

The five-year median of annual salmonellosis notifications for 2015 to 2019 in Australia was 16,375 while in 2020 there were 12,033 cases.

The lowest monthly rate for 2015 to 2020 was in the Australian Capital Territory in July and October 2020.

From March to December 2020, the monthly rates for all jurisdictions were below the five-year median except in June and September for Western Australia and December for Tasmania.

The rates in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales in 2020 showed prolonged low levels. Victoria had the greatest drop and longest plateau coinciding with two COVID-19 lockdowns. A reduced number of restaurant meals and social gatherings where food was produced for many people likely contributed to a reduction in salmonellosis risk, said, researchers.

Smaller decreases for Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory reflected milder public health steps. It could also suggest the role of a non-foodborne origin of Salmonella with social distancing changes having less of an impact, according to the research.

When such measures eased in June, notification rates did not go down as steeply as the seasonal five-year decrease.

Other factors
Not all people with infection seek medical treatment or get tested but another survey from January to June 2020 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found no significant decrease in general practitioner service usage.

Changes in laboratory testing priorities likely contributed to the decline in notified salmonellosis cases but are unlikely to have fully accounted for the decrease, said researchers.

Scientists said reduced reports of Salmonella support the importance of behavioral factors in preventing infection.

“Wide-scale application of significant public health measures during COVID-19 appears to have had an impact in reducing infectious diseases including salmonellosis. It is recommended that public health advice continues to promote hand hygiene as this simple intervention has demonstrated to reduce Salmonella transmission,” they said.

This week’s cluster report from the Hawaii Department of Health focuses on COVID-19 outbreaks at a restaurant chain, as well as one caused by a food supply delivery by an infected person, and a gathering at a karaoke bar.

Health officials say the risk among food service and restaurant workers has grown due to the highly transmissible delta variant — which now accounts for almost all COVID cases in Hawaii – combined with work environments that tend to be small and poorly ventilated and low vaccination rates among employees.

In July and August, health officials investigated two clusters with 40 coronavirus cases at a large restaurant chain on Oahu — with one location in a tourist area and the other in a community with low vaccination rates.

As of today 719,037, of our friends and neighbors have died from SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).  However, perhaps, at least in the foodborne illness space, there might be some good news?

The CDC reported today on the Decreased Incidence of Infections Caused by Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2017–2020.

According to the CDC, there has been a 26% decrease in incidence of infections caused by pathogens transmitted commonly through food during 2020 which was the largest single-year variation in incidence during 25 years of FoodNet surveillance.

The questions posed by the CDC in part were answered and in part not.

1.     Did widespread public health interventions implemented to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission might have contributed to this decrease? For example, infections associated with international travel decreased markedly after pandemic-related travel restrictions were imposed. Other interventions, such as restaurant closures, might have contributed to declines in incidence.

2.     However, a higher than usual proportion of infections might have been undetected because factors such as changes in health care-seeking behaviors, and broader use of telehealth might have limited the number of stool specimens tested.

3.     Marked decreases in emergency department visits for abdominal pain and other digestive or abdominal signs and symptoms occurred early in the pandemic which would have decreased reports of foodborne illnesses.

4.     Of concern was the proportion of infections resulting in hospitalization increased slightly; possible explanations include disproportionate decreases in health care-seeking among those with milder illness or delayed health care-seeking resulting in more severe illness at the time of clinical presentation.

5.     Changes in clinical and public health laboratory capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic might have contributed to observed decreases in culturing. Before 2020, culture of specimens positive for CampylobacterSalmonellaShigella, and Yersinia increased in FoodNet sites, augmented by CDC funding. However, fewer cultures decrease the ability to detect and investigate outbreaks and sporadic cases of emerging pathogens, which relies on sequencing.

6.     The incidences of Salmonella Infantis, Cyclospora, and Yersinia infections, which had previously been increasing, did not change, possibly because of continuing prepandemic factors that led to rising incidences during previous years; the stable incidences despite the pandemic suggest that they might have increased otherwise.

7.     As pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, illnesses caused by these pathogens and by Hadar, the one Salmonella serotype with increasing incidence, should be closely monitored. Rising multidrug resistant Salmonella Infantis infections have been linked to consumption of chicken. Hadar infections have been linked to backyard flocks and to consumption of turkey. USDA-FSIS did not detect a significantly higher percentage of Salmonella Hadar in raw poultry samples collected in 2020 compared with 2017–2019. Typhimurium continued to decline in rank among Salmonella serotypes, dropping to fourth most common for the first time.

The CDC noted that the findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, the pandemic and corresponding public health response make explaining changes in the observed incidences of infections challenging. Second, changes in health care-seeking behaviors and health care delivery during the pandemic likely limited ascertainment of cases. Finally, sites reported decreases that varied over time in the willingness of ill persons to be interviewed and in staff member capacity to conduct case interviews; these factors might have resulted in missing data and recall bias.

After more than a year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a global health emergency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to underscore that there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19.

Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast. Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2.

It’s particularly important to note that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food. While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of virus resulting in human infection. Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.

The USDA and the FDA are sharing this update based upon the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging. For example, a recent opinion from the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF)External Link Disclaimer, stated: “Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.” Additional literature reviewsExternal Link Disclaimer and analysesExternal Link Disclaimer from other countries agree.

In addition, considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans. Furthermore, transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems. Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe.

Based on the scientific information that continues to be made available over the course of the pandemic, the USDA and FDA continue to be confident in the safety of the food available to American consumers and exported to international customers.