Have you ever become ill after eating at a potluck or restaurant and wondered what made you sick? El Paso County Public Health is launching a new online system to help investigate those illnesses that may have come from food.
The new online complaint system, available at www.elpasocountyhealth.org, is secure and confidential. It consists of a simple survey that allows people to file a complaint online, and is sent directly to communicable disease experts who investigate complaints to prevent the spread of foodborne illness, commonly called “food poisoning.”
“Most foodborne infections go undiagnosed and unreported either because the ill person does not see a doctor, or the doctor does not make a specific diagnosis,” said Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, El Paso County Public Health’s Medical Director. “This new online system allows people to report food-related illness any time – day, night, or on weekends – and help improve public health’s response.”
The complaint system will ask questions about your symptoms, what you ate, and where you got the food. It takes 5-10 minutes to complete and can be done from a computer or mobile device. Public health experts have a better chance of finding the source of the illness and preventing others from getting sick if you provide detailed information.
Eating contaminated food can cause you to experience diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and fever. These symptoms can result in missed work or school, and even hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridum perfringens and Campylobacter.
In 2017, 18 percent of the 916 calls received by the Communicable Disease Program at El Paso County Public Health were food related. In that same year, the program received 148 reports of retail food establishments or food-based events (potlucks) possibly associated with foodborne illness. El Paso County Public Health’s environmental health specialists investigate reported foodborne illness when two or more unrelated people become ill at retail food establishment or special events to assure proper food safety practices such as temperature control and food worker handwashing.
Each year, one in six people get sick from a foodborne illness (roughly 48 million people), 128,000 are hospitalized due to foodborne illness and 3,000 die, the CDC says.
To access the complaint form, go to www.elpasocountyhealth.org, then click on Report a Foodborne Illness.