Monday, May 11, 2009

Virologists say 'swine flu' more likely caused by globe-trotting people than pigs and factory farms

Despite being commonly referred to as "swine flu," the pork industry bears little blame for the H1N1 virus, say virologists, who instead trace the disease's development and spread to humans who travel around the world and pick up a variety of flu strains, creating an entirely new strain. "The easy way out is to blame the pig," influenza expert Robert Webster, a virologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., told Alan Zarembo and Karen Kaplan for the Los Angeles Times.

"The flu strain, which has killed dozens of people and sickened thousands more since March, has yet to be found in a single pig outside Alberta, Canada, where an infected farmworker -- yes, a person -- transmitted it to a herd," the Times reports. That's not to say that pigs have no role in the process: They can get flu viruses and transmit them to humans, and part of their flu genomes contributed to the strain that makes up H1N1. But those studying the problem say their contribution is only one small facet of the problem.

"Do pigs contribute to the flu gene pool? Yeah, and so do people, and so do wild birds," said the University of Minnesota's Dr. Kurt Rossow, who studies diseases in people handling pigs. "I just don't agree that pigs are an evil mixing vessel just boiling over with flu that's pumping out to people on a regular basis." That is the fear of some who have pointed to confined animal feeding operations, or factory farms, as breeding grounds for viruses. (Read more)

1 comment:

Palscience said...

I hope this Flu will not appear again harder in the next flu season.