Mexican CAFOs are an excellent mixing bowl for new flu viruses-

Well it looks like we’re in for some fun and games with a novel strain of influenza. Hopefully it won’t kill too many of us, and maybe a lesson will be learned (don’t count on either).

There is a lengthy article on this in the Huffington Post. Swine Flu Outbreak — Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

25 Responses to Swine Flu Outbreak — Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

  1. avatar pc says:

    My opinion, everything needs a predator to keep populations in check humans included. We spend much time and research justifying reintroduction of predators back to our environments and we tend to forget that humans need a predator as well. It is unfortunate, but it is life and death. I’m surprised we have not had any major epidemics or pandemics in the last 50+ yrs.

    I realize what I am saying sounds cruel to some, but the human race could use a thinning of the herd just like many other species. Again, just my opinion based on science.

    Paul

  2. avatar Salle says:

    pc,

    Couldn’t agree more. I have been saying the same thing and have been chastized for it for years, even though it’s absolutely true. Most folks, in this culture at least, are under the impression that nobody is supposed to die and that death is the ultimate worst thing in the world, for their favorite people that is…

    We humans are defeating ourselves as a specie and we can’t seem to accept it and, therefore, refuse to face up to the reality that we are no more “special” than any other specie. We are way out of balance within the biosphere and I am thinking that this may be one of the ways in which the natural selection process we have been trumping for so long is finally catching up to us.

  3. avatar jdubya says:

    This article is a bit premature in its assumption that factory pig farms are the evil that is generating and propagating this “new” virus. The historical genetic mixing bowl has been the family living with ducks/geese and pigs in a small family setting. That way components of avian flu, swine flu and people flu can mix in a single infection and create a new virus containing genetic material from the three viruses. Once established with an infection of this new virus, these pig farms could certainly be a center of amplification of the virus but I will be interestd in the evidence that shows they were instrumentall in its creation.

    The article left me a bit cold when the authors wandered off into the world of antibiotic resistant bacteria from such farms. If you want to deride the farms for being bacteria breeding rounds great, but if you really want to discuss the origins and expansion of a new flu virus, then stick to the subject.

    But this new virus, if it does become a pandemic, could be the third wall of water in the economic perfect storm that has been brewing in the past year. Think of the economic impact that fighting such a flu could have on countries already sunk in debt due to the recession. Do you think there will be any money left over to fight global warming? We may have thought we had gotten control of this economic car, but this flu could put it right through the guardrail and off the cliff.

  4. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I agree pc, our population does need thinning and I think we are primed for a major epidemic in the next few years.

  5. avatar kt says:

    Well, it sure accentuates the dangers of government entities lying about disease in any form – as Idaho’s Caine Vet people/U of I facility have done.

    The Mexican government will likely be blamed for not acting soon enough. WHAT I wonder, would be Idaho’s reaction if a disease linked to its sacred domestic sheep, or sacred cow industries, appeared? How long wodul they keep it from the Feds? Remember that Butch Otter wouldn’t allow the initial Bighorn meeting group to talk about disease … The ranchers were, apparently, too sensitive to the issue. it might have hurt their feelings …

    What a dangerous disgrace Idaho leadership is.

  6. avatar kim kaiser says:

    quote “The Mexican government will likely be blamed for not acting soon enough”

    i doubt it,, team hussein will go back down there and apologize to them for us being the root of all there problems, we will send them some more cash, and all will be well,,

    i dont remember anyone complaining about the salmonella outbreak on any of the vegetable products over the last year and blaming the vegetarian groups,,

    besides, team Husseins non existent Dept of Health Services (the tax cheat dashcle) stand in nepolitano and whoever else they could round up today said the diease HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH EATING PORK!! or could they be lying. So why stir up the industrial food producer arguement when its not involved here

    ALl that said, fully agree humans need a thinning, so why does everyone object to war? does the same thing

  7. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    ALl that said, fully agree humans need a thinning, so why does everyone object to war? does the same thing

    Kim, I don’t know if I am just speaking for myself but I don’t think we are all for violence and at least in my case am thinking things like smaller families are in order. And I mean this voluntarily, not like China’s one child policy.

  8. avatar jdubya says:

    uhh this may be called “swine flu” but you ain’t gonna get it from no pig, whether alive or dead. You will get it from people just like you would get “bird flu” or the ordinary “people flu”. So eat you baby back ribs all you want, just wash your hands a lot, don’t touch other peoples hands, and stay off airplanes. That said, I am heading to Mexico in 10 days to catch a bonefish or two and hope the border is not closed by hyperactive health officials.

  9. avatar TimothyB says:

    Are you people insane? This swine flu thing might be a good thing?

    Imagine this: Your entire family including cousins, aunts, uncles and in-laws all die of the swine flu leaving you as the only survivor in your bloodline. There you go…there’s some thinning for you.

    Where are the volunteers to help this planet get better? pc? Salle? kt? kim? ProWolf?

    Can I be the only one who thinks that this swine flu and the deaths it might inflict upon the people of the planet is tragic instead of advantageous? Holy smokes and people call me uncaring?

  10. avatar Salle says:

    Timothy B,

    It’s not a cruelty thing, it’s a fact of life and the full cycle of it which concludes with death, however it may take place. And as I have said numerous times before as well as my comment above…

    Most folks, in this culture at least, are under the impression that nobody is supposed to die and that death is the ultimate worst thing in the world, for their favorite people that is…

    We humans are defeating ourselves as a specie and we can’t seem to accept it and, therefore, refuse to face up to the reality that we are no more “special” than any other specie. We are way out of balance within the biosphere and I am thinking that this may be one of the ways in which the natural selection process we have been trumping for so long is finally catching up to us.

    The incredible fear of death in this country and culture are way off from the natural order of life/death cycle. Get used to reality. If this isn’t the “thinning” there will eventually be one since we can’t keep on in the manner and direction we humans as a specie have been careening off into.

    Perhaps this is our “Atlantis event”. And perhaps not. But I am guessing that one is approaching sooner than later since we have come to ignore all the warning signs of our ultimate demise that will surely take place due to our tinkering with nature to extent that we have. And why have we gone so far in this direction? I would suggest that it is a direct result of our unwillingness to accept the natural life cycle… which is the ultimate arbiter of our fate as a specie, pretty or not.

  11. avatar jdubya says:

    See it wasn’t pig farms after all!!

    http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4631.shtml

    Science rules !!!

  12. avatar pc says:

    Sorry TimothyB I don’t do emotion. Never said it was a good thing just a fact of life. EVERYTHING goes through correction including the stock mkt, housing industry and Wall Street. When some thing or some species far out numbers its support system it will fail or die. I don’t make the rules, science does. I’m not too concerned about my bloodline which I can trace for nearly 250 yrs. (who cares).

    ProWolf in WY, who said anything about objecting to war? It’s all part of Darwinism.

    Paul

  13. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I agree pc, our population does need thinning and I think we are primed for a major epidemic in the next few years.

    ALl that said, fully agree humans need a thinning, so why does everyone object to war? does the same thing

    Kim, I don’t know if I am just speaking for myself but I don’t think we are all for violence and at least in my case am thinking things like smaller families are in order. And I mean this voluntarily, not like China’s one child policy.

    Read the post again carefully Timothy. Did I say the swine flu was a good thing?

  14. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I agree pc, our population does need thinning and I think we are primed for a major epidemic in the next few years.

    ALl that said, fully agree humans need a thinning, so why does everyone object to war? does the same thing

    Kim, I don’t know if I am just speaking for myself but I don’t think we are all for violence and at least in my case am thinking things like smaller families are in order. And I mean this voluntarily, not like China’s one child policy.

    Read the posts again carefully Timothy. Did I say the swine flu was a good thing?

  15. avatar vickif says:

    I thought most folks here were a bit more educated than this?
    So, the current strain of Swine Flu in question is actually a multi-group. It is a combination of human influenza, swine(meaning carried by pigs) influenza along with some Avian Flu. (Ooooo, dare I say that out loud?)
    It is not a singular mutation.
    So the thing of it is, we did this same rush to panic when the Chinese Bird Flu became a publicized issue. But the reality is, IT WAS HAPPENING ALL ALONG. Until the media blitz happens, we wander through life oblivious and falsely comfortable.
    To add to the subject, the vast majority of people ever exposed are likely never tested. This flu in particular is effecting people who are too poor to seek treatment, let alone stay home from work to go to the doctor. They are also residents(by and large) of a country that has sub standard health care. (They don’t just come here for the atmosphere.)
    I get my info from the CDC, and frankly the literature I have leads me to think we have already seen patients with this strain. Most doctors these days test in office with a ‘rapid flu’ test. It gives you results for Flu A or B in about fifteen minutes. The problem is, it tests according for a virus that is ever mutating. So certain strains will not test positive because they aren’t included in the control group for testing.
    Therefore, many people have been told they do not have the flu when they could have a mutated strain, including this one.

    If an animal hadn’t died and been tested (in theory), we probably would not have even began testing and these people would have been presumed to have contracted another influenza. No one would be the wiser. We should thank dead animals for the “heads up”.

    The testing process for this Swine Flu is a rapid flu test followed by an upper respitory test (PCR I believe). The second test is only done a limited numbers of labs and results take days to get back. The window to treat symptoms with anti-viral meds (Tamiflu) is most effective within 48 hours of initial symptoms. Most people don’t notice “initial” symptoms. So most people will have limited efficacy from treatment and will suffer through. The end result? Immunity.

    When people say we are ‘being thinned out’ I have to laugh. This is no more nature thinning us out than cancer, Aids, hepatitis, tuberculosis, etc. It doesn’t need to be. Nature need only thin us out via our own vices upon ourselves, ie: our eating and excercise habits, ingestion of carcinogens, inhalation of pollutants, acts of violence upon one another, and killing our food source-EARTH.

    Seriously folks, this is no different than influenza mutating any other year, science is always a mutation behind. Will it become epidemic? Perhaps, but it is no more likely than most any other virus to become so.

    If it becomes a real concern, expect big laughters, like mad cow days.

    For years I have been outraged at the ignorance surrounding the testing of bison for burcellosis, but the mass frenzy of misunderstanding most people have for the entire process is evident amongst people talking of the Swine Flu today, here and at my clinic.

    Make no mistake, humans do have the luxury and burden of logic and reason. Therefore, the only thinning we should really need should occur through common sense and responsible contraception programs. Not mass loading of graves full of people.

    Keep in mind folks, people wouldn’t be the only animals facing this threat. Most animals in nature can be susceptable to human deseases….parvo, canine influenza, hepatitis, rhinovirus, cough, etc.

  16. avatar vickif says:

    Sorry, that should have read “slaughters” not “laughters”.

  17. avatar Cobra says:

    Seems like anymore there is a shot or pill for just about anything. Remember when you knew a family that had the measles, mumps, chickenpox etc. and you would take your kids or your parents would take you over to the infected home so you could catch whatever and get it over with while you were young? Now, with all the drugs we seem to have all these super bugs. Sometimes I wonder if our own immune system might still be the strongest and best way to deal with some of these bugs.

  18. avatar kt says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/27/swine-flu-mexico-health

    “Perhaps it is not surprising that Mexico lacks both capacity and political will to monitor livestock diseases, but the situation is hardly better north of the border, where surveillance is a failed patchwork of state jurisdictions, and corporate livestock producers treat health regulations with the same contempt with which they deal with workers and animals”.

    And in the Farm Bureau’s/Butch Otters’s/and the Idaho Woolgrowers Idaho — in January 2008, Otter ordered a Bighorn sheep group convened and any discussion of disease transmission from public lands welfare ranchers domestic sheep flocks to bighorns was forbidden. Idaho contempt for science – in the service of the Woolgrowers.

  19. avatar jdubya says:

    Vickif, you said: So the thing of it is, we did this same rush to panic when the Chinese Bird Flu became a publicized issue. But the reality is, IT WAS HAPPENING ALL ALONG.

    Well not exactly. What makes this flu so interesting is the people to people transmission rate and the presumed lethality. The bird flu scare of the past couple of years had a virus that could be transmitted from birds to people, but the person to person transmission rate was low. This Mexican pig virus appears to show a very high efficiency of transfer from person to person which makes one guess it has incorporated more of a human flu virus genome than the bird flu did. Whether or not this new flu will live up to its hype (high lethality with those with a healthy immune response and very efficient transfer from person to person) remains to be seen. But as a biologist I am captivated.

  20. avatar jdubya says:

    Vickif, you said: So the thing of it is, we did this same rush to panic when the Chinese Bird Flu became a publicized issue. But the reality is, IT WAS HAPPENING ALL ALONG.

    Well not exactly. What makes this flu so interesting is the people to people transmission rate and the presumed lethality. The bird flu scare of the past couple of years had a virus that could be transmitted from birds to people, but the person to person transmission rate was low. This Mexican pig virus appears to show a very high efficiency of transfer from person to person which makes one guess it has incorporated more of a human flu virus genome than the bird flu did. Whether or not this new flu will live up to its hype (high lethality with those with a healthy immune response and very efficient transfer from person to person) remains to be seen. But as a biologist I am captivated.

  21. avatar jdubya says:

    Vickif, you said: So the thing of it is, we did this same rush to panic when the Chinese Bird Flu became a publicized issue. But the reality is, IT WAS HAPPENING ALL ALONG.

    Well not exactly. What makes this flu so interesting is the people to people transmission rate and the presumed lethality. The bird flu scare of the past couple of years had a virus that could be transmitted from birds to people, but the person to person transmission rate was low. This Mexican pig virus appears to show a very high efficiency of transfer from person to person which makes one guess it has incorporated more of a human flu virus genome than the bird flu did. Whether or not this new flu will live up to its hype (high lethality with those with a healthy immune response and very efficient transfer from person to person) remains to be seen. But as a biologist I am captivated.

  22. avatar vickif says:

    JDubya,
    True with the bird flu of a few years past, they presumed human to human contact wasn’t an issue. But as with all influenza viruses, mutation can cause additional variants.

    The Swine flu now does have variants from the Swine flu of previous years. And human contact may be higher because more people are handling pigs which may have been infected. But this particular strain, as I understand it, is a mutation and has variants of human and bird flu as well in it’s make-up.

    When I said it was happening all along, I meant that there was exposure. And though in avian flu, it’s original state may have been contained to avian to human contact, it is easy to see how that could have changed. We just didn’t hear about it until it became a health risk to people here, thus garnering media attention.

    However, it is increasingly appearant in the health care field that the influenza viruses are so rapidly mutating, we cannot easily predict nor keep up with it. We have a one year lag time, at best. And our exposure happens on levels that are so high, and so unconscious, that we’d be agorophobic if we truly acknowledged them..

    But as always nature prevails, and we gain immunity when we don’t even know we have been exposed.
    Without further data on those who have died, and their physical state previous to infection, the time interval between exposure, on-set and treatment….we are walking blind-folded through a lot of this….just like we do with many other scenarios.

    It is quite the intriguing subject, but as someone who manages a clinic providing treatment to thousands a month (many who have been to Mexico or have been around someone who has) the thought that this could spead so rapidly is a concern, for not only my patients, but my staff, friends and family. It is quite appauling to think some might find this a necessity of nature…but hey, many people do until it effects them directly.

    You and I can see from a scientific perpective that containment it crucial, and is always parimount to limiting global effect. From a human perspective, no science involved, it scares me….but so did the small pox scare about six years ago, the avian flu freak out a few years ago, etc. We have got to figure out how to balance our food sources, our health and our environment, along with our population growth…or we are all scre—.

  23. avatar jdubya says:

    I must have had too much coffee yesterday. How did I post three times?

    Yes Vicki, this will be an interesting story when it gets fleshed out. So far I have not heard if this virus is in the bird population. If there is pig to bird, or human to bird, and then bird to bird transmission, then the WHO pandemic alert signals should go into the code flaming red stage. I just have not heard anything about this yet….ok, just push “submit” once…

  24. avatar TC says:

    Some reading on antigenic shift and antigenic drift and the ecology and epidemiology of influenza A viruses seems to be in order for some folks, including those that are dismayed at the lack of scientific literacy in others on this board… Even a basic knowledge of influenza virus nomenclature is useful – this virus is type A, subtype H1N1, and the strain(s) is/are named according to where/when/from whom it was isolated (i.e., A/New York/19/2009(H1N1)) and then confirmed to be the same (or proven to be different) by gene sequencing. Infection with this strain can be confirmed by real-time RT-PCR or virus isolation and identification, although suspect or probable cases are being reported based on a positive test for influenza A and negative results for the common (seasonal/human) subtypes normally circulating right now. This is not something to freak out about, but it does seem to meet some of the essential criteria for localized epidemics or a pandemic, namely:
    1. A new subtype of influenza A virus is introduced into the human population (i.e., with little to no population-level immunity and with no protection afforded by the current vaccines in use).
    2. The virus causes serious illness in humans (yet to be determined fully – they have some numerators or numbers of sick and dead folks, but no reliable denominators, or numbers of people total that have been infected).
    3. The virus can spread easily from person to person in a sustained manner (the evidence suggests this may be true).

    And once number 3 is established, animal (swine or avian to human) transmission becomes much less significant and important in the epidemiology of the disease – we are our own worst enemies in this regard – there are not a lot of folks in this brave new world that handle pigs, live poultry, or wild birds anymore. The interesting thing about swine that nobody has mentioned is that they are the melting pot for avian, swine, and human influenza A viruses and are a potential mixing bowl for antigenic shift or gene reassortment to produce novel and potentially nasty subtypes/strains, and by and large it is NOT agribusiness or commerical swine operations to blame – their biosecurity protocols are stringent – it’s backyard pigs, petting zoo pigs, animal sanctuary pigs, hobby pigs, and rural (sometimes semi-feral) pigs in what we used to call (before PC) third-world conditions, especially those that share environments with domestic poultry and humans.

  25. avatar vickif says:

    Well, the CDC has stated the government is making disposable respirators available to the American Public. That seems a bit of a hint as to the lack of containment.

    I was likely exposes myself yesterday, at work. The six degrees of seperation in this case was more like two degrees. Ofcouse, my staff is having some anxiety about the situation. But I expect thatthe high level of Mexican nationals that are in my vicinity will help elevate the number of positive cases soon. We have so little control over their entry to the USA that we could not, with any certainty, expect to test for potential carriers. Let alone contain or predict this diseases spread…..too late.

    What we can do is keep in mind that we need to be precautious, but most American’s take preventing disaster for granted and rely too much on everyone else to do it. That is appearant in a lot of things, like global warming, carbon emmissions, cattle damages, etc.

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