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Foodborne Illness in the Elderly

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The elderly (≥65 years of age) are more susceptible to morbidity and mortality from foodbome-induced gastroenteritis than younger individuals. Several factors contribute to the increased susceptibility to foodbome infections as well as other infections in elderly populations. These include an age-associated decrease in humoral and cellular immunity, age-related changes in the gastrointestinal tract (decreased production of gastric acid and decreased intestinal motility), malnutrition, lack of exercise, entry into nursing homes, and excessive use of antibiotics. Data from foodbome outbreaks associated with nursing homes indicate that the elderly are more likely to die from foodbome Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus infections than the general population. Infections by Salmonella species are the most common cause of illness and death in nursing homes with Salmonella enteritidis as the major cause of both morbidity and mortality. While it is impossible to tum back the clock, practicing a healthy life-style with regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, receiving regular health care, paying attention to personal hygiene, and monitoring food preparation and handling should lead to a reduced incidence of foodbome and other infections in the elderly.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Microbial Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038, USA

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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