Background: Seafood-associated disease outbreaks in New York were examined to describe their epidemiology and to identify areas for prevention and control efforts.
Methods: We reviewed reports submitted to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) of seafood-associated outbreaks occurring from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1994.
Results: During 1980-1994, 339 seafood-associated outbreaks were reported, resulting in 3959 illnesses, 76 hospitalizations, and 4 deaths. During this period, seafood-associated outbreaks accounted for 19% of all reported foodborne outbreaks and 10% of foodborne illnesses. Shellfish, the most frequently implicated seafood item, accounted for 64% of seafood outbreaks, followed by finfish (31% of outbreaks). Of the 148 seafood-associated outbreaks with a confirmed etiologic agent, Norwalk virus and scombrotoxin were the most frequently identified agents: Norwalk virus accounted for 42% of outbreaks and 42% of illnesses, and scombrotoxin accounted for 44% of outbreaks and 19% of illnesses. Three of the 4 seafood-associated deaths were caused by Clostridium botulinum; the remaining death was caused by Vibrio vulnificus.
Conclusions: Reducing the number of seafood outbreaks will require continued and coordinated efforts by many different agencies, including those involved with water quality; disease surveillance; consumer education; and seafood harvesting, processing, and marketing. New York's foodborne disease surveillance data highlight potential areas on which to focus prevention efforts, including: (1) commodities and associated pathogens causing the largest number of seafood-associated outbreaks and illnesses, namely shellfish-associated viral gastroenteritis and finfish-associated scombroid fish poisoning, and (2) venues at which seafood were most frequently consumed in reported outbreaks, such as commercial food establishments and catered events.