Wednesday, April 29, 2009

While pigs likely don't carry swine flu to humans, factory farming may have helped spawn the virus

Many in the pork industry are calling for the name "swine flu" to be changed because it unfairly stigmatizes hogs as the direct cause of the deadly influenza outbreak. And while no pig has been found to have the strain of flu, and experts insist properly cooked pork is safe to eat, the pork industry may not be completely free from blame for this global outbreak. A report by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production warned that factory farming could give rise to a global pandemic. ABC News highligfhted the report last night.

Confined animal feeding operations, where large numbers of animals are closely confined, may have played a role. "The continual cycling of swine influenza viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds or flocks provides increased opportunity for the generation of novel viruses through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human-to-human transmission of these viruses," the Pew report said. It urged CAFOs not to give antibiotics to healthy animals, for fear that new, drug-resistant viruses would develop.

"Researchers such as Gregory Gray, MD, a University of Iowa professor of international epidemiology and expert in zoonotic infections, warned that CAFO workers could serve as a 'bridging population' to rural communities sharing viruses with the pigs, and vice-versa," David Kirby writes on The Huffington Post. A link between CAFOs and viral outbreaks would mean that the pork industry is not entirely inncocent in the current health crisis. In the last several years many several U.S. hog conglomerates have opened CAFOs throughout Mexico, and several of the operations are in the area where the first case of the new virus was found. (Read more)

The name "swine flu" has worried many in in the pork industry, which we mentioned here was struggling before the outbreak of the virus, because people are associating the disease with pigs or pork. "There's no evidence at this time that it's present in pigs in the United States, or in any pig herd anywhere in the world," Deborah Johnson, director of the North Carolina Pork Council, told The Associated Press. The federal government is considering changing the name because the association between the virus and the animal will undoubtedly hurt pig farmers. News releases from public officials are calling the virus by its code name, H1N1. (Read more) A New York Times story offers some naming options.

UPDATE 5/22/09: Hoosier Ag Today reports that the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture says the influenza strain known as swine flu did not originate from hogs at a Smithfield Foods operation, the plant that had been singled out by some as the source of the virus. The tests conducted also confirmed that A-H1N1 virus was not in pigs at the Granjas Carroll de Mexico farm in Veracruz,

1 comment:

Dal said...

If you truly believe in the art of journalism, you'd stop quoting only liberal sources in your stories. I was deeply offended that you'd cite the Huffington Post as a good resource for such a serious issue.
The Post is diverting the issue away from controlling the spread of the virus, and is instead using it as an opportunity to attack a form of business they happen to not like.
And you're obliging the spread of unsubstantiated info.
It's not the first time you've kowtowed to opportunists. You correct to call this a blog, but don't discredit those of us who have worked to tell both sides of the rural story. You're no journalist.