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In addition to the economic consequences and threats associated with outbreaks, listeriosis remains of great public health concern, as it has one of the highest case fatality rates of all the foodborne infections (20%-30%), and has common source epidemic potential. Changes in the way food is produced, distributed and stored have created the potential for diffuse and widespread outbreaks involving many countries. In 2002, a survey was carried out to assess the need for and the feasibility of a European network on listeria infections in humans. Data on surveillance systems and laboratory methods were collected through two postal surveys sent to the national Centres for communicable disease surveillance and to the listeria reference laboratories. Surveillance systems for listeria infections were in operation in 16 out of the 17 countries surveyed, and 16 countries had a national reference laboratory (NRL). All countries based their case definition of listeriosis on the isolation of Listeria monocytogenes. Fourteen NRLs performed at least one typing method on human strains. At least 13 countries already carried out or expressed willingness to carry out characterisation of isolates by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of L. monocytogenes strains isolated from human cases following a standard protocol. The participants concluded that there was a clear added value to having a European surveillance network for listeria infections, particularly for outbreak detection and investigation, and that a surveillance network based on the existing national surveillance systems was feasible.


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