These Deadly Preventable Diseases Kill Over 2,000 American-Region Children Each Year

What do you think about when you hear the term deadly, preventable diseases? Measles? Whooping Cough? While potentially deadly in certain circumstances, there is another group of preventable diseases that kills thousands of children in the American region each year. According to a new report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) and published in PLOS One, over 2,000 children in the American region die each year from foodborne diseases.

Around 600-million people, that’s 10 percent of the global population, become sick from eating contaminated food every single year. Four-hundred-and-twenty thousand of them will die around the world. Comparatively, there are about 89,000 global deaths from pertussis each year, and almost 115,000 measles deaths globally, according to the WHO’s latest reports.

Foodborne diseases kill 125,000 children under the age of 5-years-old globally each year, and over 2,000 of those children are in the American region.

The WHO report found that while children under 5-years-old make up only nine percent of the world’s population, they are the fatality victims for almost one-third of all deadly, preventable foodborne diseases. The newly released report, “Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases,” is the first report of global estimates of the deadly toll foodborne diseases have on humanity.

“In terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), 33 million years are lost to ill-health, disability or early death each year, with 40 [percent] affecting the under-5s,” Medical News Today reported.

The WHO foodborne disease report was a collaboration of over 100 experts across the globe and took ten-years to compile and complete.

Half of the deadly and preventable foodborne diseases are diarrheal. This subset causes 550 million people to become sick and 230,000 to die every single year worldwide. Ninety-six thousand of the fatalities are children. This subset is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and product that has been contaminated with norovirus, Campylobacter, nontyphoidal Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli. Non-typhoidal Salmonella is a global public health concern worldwide, no matter what a person’s economic status might be, while typhoid fever, foodborne cholera and pathogenic E. coli, tends to affect low-income countries. Most people think of “food poisoning” as a horrible experience that ends as quickly as it comes, but the reality is, victims can suffer long-term effects such as “as cancer, kidney or liver failure, brain and neural disorders,” according to Medical News Today. Children who survive serious foodborne diseases can end up with delays in physical and mental development.

While the American region has one of the lowest rates of foodborne disease around the world, contaminated food sickens 77 million people across the continent annually, including 31 million children. Again, 2,000 of these deaths in the American region are children. Norovirus, Campylobacter, E. coli and non-typhoidal Salmonella causes 95 percent of these foodborne disease cases.

In low- and middle-income areas, the WHO blames these diseases mostly on to food being prepared with unsafe water, poor hygiene, inadequate conditions in food production, and storage.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, called for action to be taken by the public, government and the food industry.

“Until now, estimates of foodborne diseases were vague and imprecise. This concealed the true human costs of contaminated food. This report sets the record straight. Knowing which foodborne pathogens are causing the biggest problems in which parts of the world can generate targeted action by the public, governments, and the food industry.”

In 2012, the WHO’s same Dr. Chan gave a dire keynote address in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a conference in which she, even then, warned of the food industry’s role in the global antibiotic crisis.

Like Dr. Chan, the WHO report stressed that food safety is a shared responsibility. Food producers, suppliers, handlers and the general public must learn how to prevent these deadly foodborne diseases that are killing so many people.

According to a press release, the report examined foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents that were either bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. The estimates are conservative, the actual global impact is likely higher.

[Image via Pixabay]