Officials from Texas claim that roughly 25% of listeria cases go unreported.
Following the recent bacteria crisis which forced Blue Bell to recall its products from across the entire U.S., this does not look well from the perspective of preventing future outbreaks.
Blue Bell ice-cream may have been connected to up to 10 listeria infections, three of which were unfortunately fatal. This led to the company issuing a recall for all their products. It would appear that there are quite a few cases when there is a failure by doctors to report a confirmed case of listeria.
Epidemiologist Richard Danilla from the State Health Department of Minnesota believes that the Blue Bell infections could have been avoided had proper disease reporting procedures been followed. Even after a case of listeria has been confirmed and the patient has been treated, many states require for doctors to send a sample of the bacteria.
This helps health departments to properly assemble databases and link cases together in order to find source of a particular outbreak. But since many samples are missing it can take significantly longer for a dangerous product such as the above mentioned ice-cream to go unnoticed until it is too late.
Sending such samples requires quite a lot of resources. Resources that some argue would be better spent on treating the current infections. But Texas’ Department of Health tries to convince doctors and laboratories that delivering pathogen cultures on time may prevent further cases from occurring at all.
When health care providers refuse to play ball though the authorities do little to persuade them. Like most other U.S. states, Texas has laws that require bacteria samples from confirmed listeria cases to be submitted.
But it has never enforced these regulations, focusing instead on peacefully cooperating with health providers and trying to educate them on the importance of sample submissions.
This tactic is used by most other states, claims epidemiologist Craig Hedberg, since they wish to maintain a friendly relationship with laboratories. The approach might not be best for the patient though. The percentage of unreported listeria cases goes up to 40% as reported by various health departments around the nation.
Hopefully the recent crisis will convince doctors to more often follow the proper procedures, now that it is quite clear how serious a disease like listeria can be.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is keeping a close eye on Blue Bell as the company prepares to reopen its production lines.
Photo Credits foodsafetynews.com