In 2021, the incidence of enteric infections – which mainly cause gastrointestinal symptoms – was higher than in 2020, but still lower than before the coronavirus pandemic. This is the outcome of a study into enteric infections and pathogens transmitted from animals to humans.
The study shows how enteric infections spread. Enteric infections cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhoea (which may or not be bloody). Some of these pathogens are transmitted to humans through direct contact with animals or animal faeces, but others are transmitted through contaminated food, the air or contact with surface water or mud. They can also be transmitted from humans to other humans.
The rotavirus is a well-known example of a contagious disease that causes gastrointestinal inflammations, such as gastroenteritis. Rotavirus infections are common in the Netherlands, especially among young children aged between six months and two years old. The usual peak in rotavirus infections is around February. While there was no such peak in the winter of 2020–2021, the next rotavirus ‘season’ started early, in October 2021. It is assumed that children were more susceptible to rotavirus infection at that time because of the fall in infections since the start of the pandemic.
Notable outbreaks of foodborne infections
The year 2021 also saw a number of notable outbreaks of foodborne infections. People in several countries became infected with the pathogen Salmonella following the consumption of Galia melons from Honduras. Other people became infected with Salmonella after having consumed eggs from a Dutch layer chicken farm.
Rise in infections due to change in coronavirus measures
The Salmonella infections followed a course similar to infections with the pathogens Campylobacter and the norovirus. These were also more frequent in 2021 than in 2020, but not as frequent as before the coronavirus pandemic. This rise can be explained by the change in coronavirus measures between 2020 and 2021.
No change to incidence of Listeria infections
In both 2020 and 2021, the incidence of Listeria infections remained unchanged from before the coronavirus pandemic. Listeria is found especially in smoked fish, cheese and long-life meat products. The incidence of Leptospira infections also remained unchanged in 2020 and 2021. Humans are mainly exposed to this bacterium through water or mud.