Makin' Bacon.Pork Production Is Linked to the Risk of Flu Epidemics and Infections
Bacon in the morning may still smell great, but eating pork raises concerns about more than just the impact of all that fat and cholesterol on your arteries. Recent research indicates the "other white meat" is a passageway for a number of serious illnesses, which can jump from animals to human hosts. And the intensive, factory farm conditions by which most pigs are raised increases the risk and acts as an incubator for bacteria. There's also proof, for the first time, that using antibiotics to treat pigs can lead to outbreaks of dangerous human diseases like salmonella.
Scientists say there is a link between swine and the spread of influenza (flu), which kills about 20,000 people in the U.S. annually. Pigs pick up the flu virus from wild aquatic birds, and pass it on to humans through their breakfast sausages or ham sandwich.
"Transmission of influenza viruses from birds to mammals has probably occurred for centuries," said Dr. Robert Webster For the New South Wales parliamentarian see Robert James Webster
Robert G. (Rob) Webster (born May 7, 1932), in Balclutha New Zealand, leading avian influenza expert, is the virologist who in 1957 was the first to announce a link between human flu and bird of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded in 1962, is a leading pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children's catastrophic diseases. It is located in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1996, Peter Doherty, Ph.D., of St. , Memphis, Tennessee, speaking at the Second International Symposium on Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. "However, increased opportunities for transmission, larger chicken and pig populations, and overall growth of human populations are associated with a higher risk of interspecies reassortment. This situation is a possible start for a new pandemic pandemic /pan·dem·ic/ (pan-dem´ik)
1. a widespread epidemic of a disease.
2. widely epidemic.
Epidemic over a wide geographic area.
While the timing of the next influenza pandemic cannot be predicted, experts agree it is inevitable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. (CDC See Control Data, century date change and Back Orifice.
CDC - Control Data Corporation ) projects that the next pandemic could kill between 89,000 and 207,000 people, and result in 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations. Infectious disease Infectious disease
A pathological condition spread among biological species. Infectious diseases, although varied in their effects, are always associated with viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular parasites and aberrant proteins known as prions. specialists say health authorities are not prepared.
The CDC estimates that 80 percent of deaths from flu can be prevented with a flu shot. But in the event of a pandemic, it would take about 22 weeks to develop and manufacture a new vaccine. This timeline could be trimmed to 12 weeks if the potential vaccine candidate is already present in a "library" of potential pandemic strains.
Even so, Webster says, "The time frame to create the vaccine and produce sufficient numbers of doses are major obstacles to a rapid response. This pandemic will potentially be associated with major problems in detection, prevention, vaccine production, drug manufacture and distribution," according to Webster. "The breakout will also be associated with major political and social problems, without easy answers. Active international surveillance and improvement of international communication, new progress in vaccine production, funding of specific research and new surveillance networks and collaboration with drug companies are vital to address the coming pandemic."
A Smoking Gun?
Other health problems are also associated with swine production. In Malaysia, more than 250 people, mostly pig farm workers, developed encephalitis encephalitis (ĕnsĕf'əlī`təs), general term used to describe a diffuse inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, usually of viral origin, often transmitted by mosquitoes, in contrast to a bacterial infection of the meninges after exposure last year to swine infected with the Nipah virus Nip·ah virus
A single-stranded RNA virus that is transmitted from animals and causes fever and myalgias that can progress to encephalitis in humans. (which is believed to be spread by fruit bats). More than 100 of those people died. A million pigs have been slaughtered in an effort to control the virus, which was still infecting farmers as late as last January.
A 1999 Danish study published in The New England Journal of Medicine The New England Journal of Medicine (New Engl J Med or NEJM) is an English-language peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Massachusetts Medical Society. It is one of the most popular and widely-read peer-reviewed general medical journals in the world. links the common practice of feeding livestock low levels of antibiotics to multidrug-resistant salmonella infections in humans. Dr. Bryan White, a University of Illinois University of Illinois may refer to:
Below the dosage levels used to treat diseases: subtherapeutic feeding of penicillin to livestock.
sub levels of antibiotics and development of bacteria in the meat that can be transmitted to people. In the Danish case, 25 people who ate meat from swine herds were infected with a rare strain of drug-resistant salmonella. Eleven people were hospitalized and two died.
White says other studies had shown a suspected link between feeding antibiotics to livestock and subsequent infection, but the Danish research was the first iron-clad study. "This study tells me what I already knew: You can get human pathogens with antibiotic resistance antibiotic resistance,
n the ability of certain strains of microorganisms to develop resistance to antibiotics.
antibiotic resistance ," says white. "A lot of outbreaks we thought were not linked to antibiotic use in livestock might be. It is my opinion that it would be prudent for farmers to discontinue feeding subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics. The European community has banned use of all these antibiotics in feed now. They are well ahead of the U.S."
Antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock in the United States to promote growth. But White argues that with good management practices, farmers could get the same growth response from animals in the absence of antibiotics in feed. Last February, Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced H.R. 3266, a bill that would require animal drug manufacturers to prove to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. ) that there is "reasonable certainty" of no human harm from their antibiotics. "The FDA is dragging its feet on this issue" says the Union of Concerned Scientists' Lara Levison, "proposing a complicated regulatory framework that would deal only with future approvals of antibiotics, ignoring those that are already in use."
Air and water pollution from huge hog factory farms are yet another cause for concern. What's more, in North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures
Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop. and other states where such farms are concentrated, a disproportionate number of residents affected are low-income people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important , raising concerns about environmental justice.
A study by Dr. Steven Wing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public, coeducational, research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. Also known as The University of North Carolina, Carolina, North Carolina, or simply UNC shows that industrial hog farms adversely affect the health of their human neighbors. "In particular, headache, runny nose runny nose Vox populi → medtalk Rhinorrhea , sore throat Sore Throat Definition
Sore throat, also called pharyngitis, is a painful inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the pharynx. It is a symptom of many conditions, but most often is associated with colds or influenza. , excessive coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes were reported more frequently in the hog community" says Wing, an associate professor of epidemiology. "Quality of life, as indicated by the number of times residents could not open their windows or go outside even in nice weather, was ... greatly reduced among residents near the hog operation."
"Dr. Wing's research on how hog operations are affecting the health of our communities in eastern North Carolina Eastern North Carolina or (often abbreviated as ENC) is the region of North Carolina which includes the eastern third of North Carolina. It includes the Outer and Inner banks, thus it is often known geographically as the state's coastal region. contributes greatly to our understanding of how large animal operations impact our environment and public health" says Irene McFarland, staff attorney for the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group. "While those living near hog operations have long known that their health was being impacted, until Dr. Wing's study the affected communities lacked the documentation to prove the extent to which their health has been jeopardized."
At intensive hog operations in North Carolina and other states, waste from the hogs is collected in large outdoor lagoons, and is sprayed onto fields. The drift from spraying the waste can make people sick to their stomachs.
"Sometimes when I walk outside, I end up vomiting" says Jim Norman, a Mississippi cotton farmer who is one of the plaintiffs in a $75 million class-action lawsuit filed recently against Prestage Farms and several subcontractors. "This stench can give you diarrhea and sinus headaches. It's like living inside a gutter."
Because of growing public health concerns, 14 major pork producers signed a contract in 1998 promising to "utilize environmentally responsible methods of production" and "engage in positive, proactive discussions with our neighbors, our communities, our legislators and the media." Rick Dean of the Illinois Pork Producers Association said that the industry is "in transition" and complained that "much of our work is misunderstood, leading to the spread of inaccurate information."
Considering the clear links to an influenza pandemic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, adverse health impacts to minority populations, and widespread environmental damage from effluent waste, the cost of morning bacon is mounting steadily. CONTACT: The University of Illinois' "Pork Industry Conference on Addressing Issues of Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production" will be held October 16 to 17 in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. For more information, contact Dr. Bryan White, (217) 333-2091, email@example.com. Other resources: Clean Water Network Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO CAFO
see AFO/CAFO. ), (202) 289-2392, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sierra Club's CAFO campaign, (573)815-9250, Ken.Midkiff@sierraclub.org.
BECKY GILLETTE is a Mississippi-based freelance writer.