U.S. health officials will start formally tracking infections caused by the rare but potentially deadly germ that sickened babies and triggered a nationwide shortage of infant formula last year.
A group that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed Thursday to add infections caused by cronobacter to the list of serious conditions reported to the agency. There are about 120 infections and diseases on the national watchlist.
States will be asked, but not required, to notify the CDC about cronobacter infections, although they usually comply. Such infections are required to be reported now in only two states, Minnesota and Michigan. The change will take effect next year, though states may begin reporting earlier.
The action by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, a nonprofit group, caps months of demands from experts and food safety advocates who called for better surveillance of the deadly infections that typically strike the most vulnerable babies. The move establishes standard criteria for identifying and counting probable and confirmed cronobacter cases and recommends that states require them to be reported.
Cronobacter is a type of bacteria found widely in the environment. When the bug gets into a food such as powdered formula, it can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections and meningitis in very young or ill infants.