The uncommon but possibly fatal bacteria that infected newborns and prompted a statewide baby formula shortage last year will now be systematically tracked by U.S. health officials.
Cronobacter infections will now be included on the list of dangerous diseases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a body that advises the organization decided on Thursday.
On the national watchlist are around 120 illnesses and disorders. States will be requested to inform the CDC about cronobacter infections, although they are not obligated to do so, even though they typically do.
Only Minnesota and Michigan now demand the reporting of such illnesses. States may start reporting early, but the change won’t be in place until the following year.
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, a nonprofit organization, took this move in response to months of calls for enhanced surveillance of the lethal illnesses that often affect newborns with the greatest risk of infection.
The action provides uniform standards for detecting and recording probable and confirmed cronobacter infections and urges governments to make reporting of them mandatory.
A common form of bacterium in the environment is Cronobacter. When the insect contaminates food, such as powdered formula, it can lead to meningitis and potentially fatal bloodstream infections in extremely young or sick newborns.
In contrast to the projected 18 cases, the CDC normally only receives reports of two to four of the invasive infections each year, according to Dr. Julia Haston, who has investigated cronobacter infections there.
“We don’t know the true incidence of infection or the number of deaths per year because we don’t routinely perform surveillance,” she added. Although the illnesses are uncommon, Haston said that up to 40% of infants who become ill will pass away.
Four newborns who were given formula made at the Sturgis, Michigan, facility of Abbott Nutrition fell ill in 2021 due to an outbreak of cronobacter infections.
Two of the infants perished. FDA officials closed the factory after contamination and other issues were uncovered, even though there was no clear correlation between the Abbott goods and the diseases.
Top Infant formula brands were recalled by Abbott, resulting in a significant, months-long countrywide scarcity.
According to a CDC official, just one newborn instance of cronobacter infection has been reported to the organization so far this year.
The bacterium was discovered after an examination in the child’s household, in an open can of powdered formula.
No unopened container of formula with Cronobacter was discovered. The brand and location of the formula were kept secret.
According to Mitzi Baum, CEO of Stop Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit organization that promotes food safety, most parents are unaware that powdered formula isn’t sterile or that they must be meticulous about how they handle the product, the bottles, and even the sinks and countertops where formula is prepared.
After an infant passed away from a cronobacter illness linked to a contaminated breast pump in March, the CDC advised parents to disinfect equipment used for both bottle-feeding and nursing.
According to Baum, it is obvious that people are unaware of the dangers of using powdered formula.