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Swine Flu Pandemics - One Vet's View
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
...we must change how medicine is practiced, including veterinary medicine, change our agricultural practices, change our eating habits, and make the production of farmed animals humane and consonant with a sustainable economy and a viable and healthy future for all.
As the media beats the Swine flu pandemic drum, and people rush to get face-masks and hand sanitizers and are told that it is safe to eat pork products, stock-piles of Tamiflu and other anti-viral cocktails may soon be all gone, even though they may be ineffectual.. The Centers for Disease Control insist that only a new vaccine may work against this new strain, designated as A/H1N1. But getting that into production will take months, and limit the production of regular flu vaccines for the later flu season that kills an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people world-wide every year.
Millions of people will probably be vaccinated in the near future, and great profits made .But at what risk? After an outbreak of Swine flu at Fort Dix military base in New Jersey in 1976, a reported 40 million Americans were vaccinated for a predicted pandemic that never materialized. There were some 500 reports of neurological disorders in people receiving this vaccine, and 25 deaths.
Adverse vaccine reactions, so called vaccinosis, are generally under-reported, and under-recognized. The consequences of the carcinogenic and mutagenic adjuvant and preservative ingredients in vaccines, and the foreign proteins from chicken egg embryos, fibroblast cells and other culture substrates used in their manufacture, may never be known or revealed.
The widespread use of modified live and genetically engineered viral vaccines in pigs can create a Petri-dish for viral mutations and genetic exchanges of DNA between one viral strain and another, and one infective species and another. First, in 2008, we saw a new strain of Swine flu virus being reported as linked to the Avian flu virus. Prior to that the Avian influenza virus from factory farmed poultry spilled over and killed people and many wild bird species. An equine flu virus spilled over and cross-infected racing greyhounds that ran the same track facilities as the horses. Then it was only a matter of time before this new mutated strain of the influenza virus in pigs evolved to become transmissible through its latest host, Homo sapiens, from person to person. Subsequently from person back to pig! In May 2009 a pig farmer in Alberta Canada, who had visited Mexico, was found infected with the A/H1N1 strain and had passed it on to his pigs. The next evolution for this virus could be from person to cats and dogs. Both cats and dogs have become infected with the avian H5N1 strain of influenza in recent years.
On April 28, 2009, The London Times reported that the first cases of identified infection with this new strain was in a poor community of thousands of Mexicans who had been forced off their land in 1992 by the Mexican government to make way for a massive pig production enterprise. They live near large pig CAFOs---confinement animal feeding operations--- that produce close to 1 million pigs per year. It is part owned by Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based US company and the world’s largest producer and processor of pork products. They had been experiencing much sickness since February 2009, and their earlier complaints about stench and constant fly swarms from pig waste lagoons had been ignored. Smithfield sells pork and operates massive hog-raising operations in some 40 countries. Many community complaints in the US from flies and stench and reactions to living in close proximity to these masses of pig sheds have lead to a production-relocation across the border in Mexico.
Poverty and malnutrition go hand in hand, such impoverished human communities becoming the Petri-dishes for the rapid evolution of more virulent strains that seem to thrive on nutrient-deficient hosts with little or no natural resistance to infection. They also become more virulent when their hosts are stressed as by over-crowding and extreme confinement, which is the case with factory-farmed pigs. The stresses of World War 1 certainly contributed to the increased vulnerability of the human population to the ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic that was associated with some 30-50 million or more deaths world wide.
CAFOs produce high-volume animal waste, loaded with polluting nitrates, phosphates, pesticides, transgenic DNA fragments from GM soy and corn, and various pharmaceutical products. Even antibiotics are now found in crops fertilized with manure from livestock fed antibiotics. This has lead to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like the human skin and heart eating MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) we can get from pigs.
Clearly we must get rid of pig and poultry CAFOs, as well as poverty and malnutrition. Giving flu shots to millions is not the solution because these zoonotic diseases are rapidly emerging globally, in part due to international trade and travel; and are evolving and mutating constantly. There will be one pandemic after another. Over the past 30 years, seventy five percent of all emerging diseases in humans had an animal origin/vector.
We can thank the World Bank, among many, for promoting the spread of hog factories to the developing world, products from which are imported to the US, keeping the profit margins of US pork producers on the edge while the multinational corporations prosper.
If the Obama administration has a clear vision of the promised Change in America, then it is to invest wisely in the future. That means we must change how medicine is practiced, including veterinary medicine, change our agricultural practices, change our eating habits, and make the production of farmed animals humane and consonant with a sustainable economy and a viable and healthy future for all.
Dr. Michael W. Fox is a well-known veterinarian, former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, former vice president of Humane Society International and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics. For more about by Dr. Fox, visit TwoBitDog.
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