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Asymptomatic carriage of gastrointestinal zoonoses is more common in people whose profession involves them working directly with domesticated animals. Subclinical infections (defined as an infection in which symptoms are either asymptomatic or sufficiently mild to escape diagnosis) are important within a community as unknowing (asymptomatic) carriers of pathogens do not change their behaviour to prevent the spread of disease; therefore the public health significance of asymptomatic human excretion of zoonoses should not be underestimated. However, optimal strategies for managing diseases where asymptomatic carriage instigates further infection remain unresolved, and the impact on disease management is unclear. In this review we consider the environmental pathways associated with prolonged antigenic exposure and critically assess the significance of asymptomatic carriage in disease outbreaks Although screening high-risk groups for occupationally acquired diseases would be logistically problematical, there may be an economic case for identifying and treating asymptomatic carriage if the costs of screening and treatment are less than the costs of identifying and treating those individuals infected by asymptomatic hosts.
In November 2009, we initiated a multistate investigation of Salmonella Montevideo infections with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern JIXX01.0011. We identified 272 cases in 44 states with illness onset dates ranging from 1 July 2009 to 14 April 2010. To help generate hypotheses, warehouse store membership card information was collected to identify products consumed by cases. These records identified 19 ill persons who purchased company A salami products before onset of illness. A case-control study was conducted. Ready-to-eat salami consumption was significantly associated with illness (matched odds ratio 8·5, 95% confidence interval 2·1–75·9). The outbreak strain was isolated from company A salami products from an environmental sample from one manufacturing plant, and sealed containers of black and red pepper at the facility. This outbreak illustrates the importance of using membership card information to assist in identifying suspect vehicles, the potential for spices to contaminate ready-to-eat products, and preventing raw ingredient contamination of these products.
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