14 February 2022

ACT salmonella rates lowest in Australia, coincide with COVID-19 safety measures

| Damien Larkins
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Salmonella growing on XLD agar

Salmonella cases dropped in the ACT when COVID-19 safety measures kicked in. Photo: Graham Beards, Wikicommons.

Measures to combat COVID-19 such as social distancing, sanitising our hands and not eating out may have had unexpected health benefits.

Salmonella infection rates in the ACT decreased in 2020 – around the same time COVID-19 safety measures were introduced, a Federal Department of Health report shows.

The report found the number of salmonella cases dropped across the country when the measures came into force. It also found the ACT recorded the lowest monthly rates of salmonella in the country during the pandemic in 2020.

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The Communicable Diseases Intelligence report, published in late January 2022, looked into possible impacts of COVID-19 public health measures on salmonellosis in 2020.

It studied National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System data on rates of infections per 100,000 people across Australia from 2015 to 2020.

It found the 2020 national rate of salmonella was 27 per cent lower than the median rates from 2015 to 2019.

The ACT recorded 0.7 notifications per 100,000 in July and October 2020 – the lowest rate across the nation in the five-year period.

The report states the falling rates appear to have been influenced by changes in health and safety behaviour.

“This study showed salmonellosis notifications decreased in Australia in 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” it states. “Coinciding with the implementation, across Australia, of public health measures on human movement and interaction.”

Hand washing

The report recommends proper hand hygiene continues to be promoted for public health. Photo: File.

More than 70 per cent of salmonella infection in Australia is linked to food contamination.

As we stopped eating out at restaurants and social gatherings, the number of cases dropped.

Restrictions on travel may have also helped reduce the spread of the bacteria.

“Physical distancing measures that saw the closure of dine-in services at food businesses also likely contributed to a reduction in case numbers,” the report notes.

“Other factors contributing to the fall in salmonellosis notifications throughout Australia in 2020 may be the Australian population’s increased attention to hand and surface hygiene.”

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The report concluded there were two major salmonellosis phenomenon observed in Australia in 2020. First in February when the country recorded its highest monthly rate since 1991, the second from March to December with a large reduction in reported cases.

It concludes these figures indicate how social distancing and the use of hand sanitiser can help reduce salmonella rates.

“The markedly reduced notifications during COVID-19 public health measures support the importance of behavioural factors in the prevention of salmonella infection.

“Wide-scale application of significant public health measures during COVID-19 appears to have had an impact in reducing infectious diseases including salmonellosis.”

The report recommends proper hand hygiene continues to be promoted as public health advice to reduce the transmission of salmonella.

You can find the full report here – Salmonellosis in Australia in 2020: possible impacts of COVID-19 related public health measures.

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