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Decrease in Yersinia and Shigella infections in Europe

The number of Yersinia and Shigella infections decreased in Europe in 2020, according to recently published figures.

A total of 28 countries reported 5,744 confirmed cases of yersiniosis in Europe and the European Economic Area (EEA), compared to 7,054 in 2019.

Reporting of Yersinia is voluntary in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg and there is no surveillance system in the Netherlands.

As in previous years, Germany had the largest number of patients followed by France. These two countries accounted for half of all confirmed cases. Denmark had the highest case rate per 100,000 population, followed by Finland.

Of 1,293 cases with information, 29 percent were hospitalized. Two men over the age of 85 died. The highest notification rate was detected in children aged 0 to 4 years.

A total of 98 percent of 5,193 cases with species information were Yersinia enterocolitica. Seven countries recorded 94 cases of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

In 2020, 16 yersiniosis outbreaks were reported to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). There were 246 cases in six countries. The number of sick people was slightly higher than in 2019. An outbreak in Denmark involved 200 people exposed to Yersinia enterocolitica after eating a contaminated pasta-based dish at a picnic.

The overall trend in reported yersiniosis cases was stable between 2016 and 2019, but decreased markedly in 2020, which was likely an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and UK figures are no longer included after the Britain has left the EU, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

Shigella Statistics

Overall, 29 countries reported 1,806 confirmed cases of shigellosis compared to 8,448 in 2019.


This large decline is likely due to the pandemic as UK figures are not included, the ECDC said.

“There could be a true reduction in transmission due to reduced travel due to travel restrictions, less social interactions and increased hygiene measures. On the other hand, there is a potential risk of underdiagnosis due to reduced care-seeking behavior for mild symptoms or reduced diagnostic ability for mild illnesses,” according to the report.

Shigellosis is contracted by swallowing material contaminated with human feces. Infection can also come from contaminated food and water. Microscopic amounts of feces can cause illness.

France and Italy have voluntary reports and Belgium uses a different type of monitoring system.

France, the Netherlands and Germany accounted for half of the confirmed cases. France alone accounted for nearly a third. Luxembourg reported the highest reporting rate, followed by France and Slovakia.

Travel status was available for 1,028 cases and 290 of these were related to foreign travel. Egypt, Indonesia, India, and Madagascar were most frequently mentioned as likely countries of infection.

Of the confirmed cases, only 236 had information on the suspected mode of transmission. Infection through food was the most common, followed by sexual transmission and other person-to-person contacts.

Shigella sonnei was the main species identified. The highest notification rate was in children under 5 years of age.

Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Slovakia reported five outbreaks of foodborne illness.

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