Swine flu viruses were first detected in North America in 1930. Pigs are susceptible to influenza, be it porcine (pig), avian (bird), or human, and they are well-known crucibles; just add a few viruses, stir, and voila! You’ve created a new virus!
Artealia Gilliard, Press Officer for the Center for Disease Control says, “In a setting such as a farm where chickens, humans, and pigs live in close proximity, pigs act as an influenza virus ‘mixing bowl’. If a pig is infected with avian and human flu simultaneously, the two types of virus may exchange genes. Such a “reassorted” flu virus can sometimes spread from pigs to people.”
Smithfield, a U.S. company, runs an industrial pig farm with 950,000 hogs near La Gloria, Mexico, first said to be ground zero for this virus. While Mexican authorities claim the Smithfield pigs were tested and found free of disease, Steven Trunnell (whose wife Judy was the first U.S. resident to die from novel H1N1) remains unconvinced. He filed a petition against Smithfield Foods to investigate claims that the massive industrialized farm with its overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene was the source of the outbreak.
New information released by the media on July 24th states that a new patient zero has been identified, a baby girl from Northern Mexico with no known contact with pig farms.
Whether or not the Mexican pig farm is the source of the pandemic, industrialized pig farming is not exonerated. Scientists know hogs that novel H1N1 was derived from several viruses circulating in the swine population for the last several years. Overcrowded, unsanitary conditions of industrialized animal farms perpetuate and spread disease among the pig population and the human population.
Overflow from animal sewage contaminates water supplies, and insects such as flies carry disease from open sewage cesspools. Overcrowding increases the spread of disease within a herd. Overflow from animal sewage contaminates water supplies, and insects such as flies carry disease from open sewage cesspools. Overcrowding increases the spread of disease within a herd.
Two large industrial pig farms have since reported outbreaks of novel H1N1. The first, in Alberta, Canada, reported that an outbreak began on April 21, 2009. Of 2020 pigs, 450 were infected. The farm’s report to The World Animal Health Information Database states: “A carpenter hired by the farm owner (ALB-001) travelled to Mexico recently and returned to Canada on 12 April 2009. The carpenter, producer and the producer’s family had been ill with flu like symptoms between 14 — 29 April. Investigation of human cases by the Public Health authorities is underway.” The Alberta Health Department ruled out the farm worker as the source of the infection.
The second report, dated June 6, 2009, sad pig reveals the pig count had grown to 3013 pigs. The farmer culled (killed) 500 pigs due to overcrowded conditions and later destroyed the entire herd. The report states that the animals recovered from the flu, but no slaughterhouse was willing to take them. “…the owner petitioned the Alberta provincial government for the destruction of the herd for economic reasons, to allow him to exit the situation and resume operation with a replacement herd. The culling of the herd was NOT an ordered destruction as the result of animal or human disease considerations.”
A new strain of influenza A which contains seasonal flu genes and swine flu infected pig farm workers in Saskatchewan.
In Buenos Aires another large industrialized pig farm has verified novel H1N1 infection. Of 5586 pigs, 1676 are infected, a 30% morbidity rate, and Australia has reported one farm’s pigs to be infected, suggesting human to pig transmission.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will no longer quarantine pig farms with novel H1N1. Their reasons are as follows:
- There is no food safety risk associated with the virus;
- There is no evidence at this time that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of the virus in the general human population; and,
- The virus does not behave any differently in pigs from other influenza viruses commonly detected in swine herds.
After the quarantine of the Alberta herd ended in destruction because slaughterhouses refused to process the animals, this new decision not to quarantine seems to be driven by monetary concerns. How have we had enough experience with novel H1N1 infected stock to decide they pose no health risk?
Humans are susceptible to animal diseases ranging from mad cow disease to novel H1N1 flu. Our current farming practices of feeding animals unnatural foods that cause acidity and disease, overcrowded and cramped conditions that cause disease and the spread of disease within a species as well as species to species, and the problematic over accumulation of waste products due to industrialized farming display a clear and present danger. How many lives will be lost before we reverse this trend? Or will big business prevail, ignoring basic animal rights while killing our citizens with industrialized farm born disease?