RALEIGH, N.C. — Foodborne illness infects more people every year than the common cold. Doctors and nurses have a new tool to help fight the spread of of these nasty bugs.
From mad cow disease from Canada to contaminated green onions from Mexico, recent food imports carrying potentially deadly diseases have some Americans worried about what they eat.
Health experts say there are bigger threats to be concerned about.
"We hear these national concerns about the safety of our food and certainly we need to pay attention to that, but the greatest number of food illnesses occur right in our kitchens," said WRAL HealthTeam nutritionist Lynn Hoggard.
Approximately 76 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses every year; 5,000 people die. Most of those deaths are caused by a handful of bugs including salmonella, E.coli and listeria.
That is why a coalition of health care experts is calling on doctors and nurses to take a closer look at patients with food poisoning.
"Physicians can help identify an outbreak before it becomes a public health emergency," said Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration.
With the help of the American Medical Association, the coalition has created
a new online reference guide
. Now, information and symptoms on hundreds of foodborne illnesses is just a click away.
Health officials hope it will help doctors quickly identify the illness and report it -- which is key. They say it is not enough to just treat the patient and send them home.