IWA Publishing

An estimate of the cost of acute health effects from food- and water-borne marine pathogens and toxins in the USA

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Large and growing segments of the United States population consume seafood or engage in marine recreation. These activities provide significant benefits but also bring risk of exposure to marine-borne illness. To manage these risks, it is important to understand the incidence and cost of marine-borne disease. We review the literature and surveillance/monitoring data to determine the annual incidence of disease and health consequences due to marine-borne pathogens from seafood consumption and beach recreation in the USA. Using this data, we employ a cost-of-illness model to estimate economic impacts. Our results suggest that health consequences due to marine-borne pathogens in the USA have annual costs on the order of US$900 million. This includes US$350 million due to pathogens and marine toxins specifically identified as causing food-borne disease, an estimated US$300 million due to seafood-borne disease with unknown etiology, US$30 million from direct exposure to the Vibrio species, and US$300 million due to gastrointestinal illness from beach recreation. Although there is considerable uncertainty about the degree of underreporting of certain pathogen-specific acute marine-related illnesses, the conservative assumptions we have used in constructing our estimate suggest that it should be considered a lower bound on true costs.

Keywords: contaminated beach exposure, cost-of-illness model, health costs, marine-borne disease, seafood-borne illness, underreporting

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