Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine-flu outbreak, Smithfield link?

I just got home from the opening of Food Inc., a documentary that pulls back the veil of the industrialized food system. Repeatedly mentioned is the danger in the consolidation of the meat industry. Could the recent outbreak of swine-flu be connected to industry practice?

The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern."

From the CDC What's New on the Swine Flu (which has email, RSS and Twitter updates)
As of 9:00 AM on April 26, CDC has confirmed 20 human cases of swine flu in the U.S.: 7 in California, 2 in Kansas, 8 in New York City, 1 in Ohio, and 2 in Texas.
According to the CDC:
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses has been documented.
Tom Phillpot, over at the Grist has revealed that the outbreak may be linked to Smithfield (Factory) Farms. He was crediting the tip to Paula Hay and her Smithfield coverage at Peak Oil Entrepreneur. The blogger investigative reporting can be linked back further to a Twitter "hat tip" from hyperlocavore.

David Kirby at the Huffington Post also picked up the story:
Large-scale swine producers in Mexico deny that their industry is the source of the deadly new influenza strain, saying the animals are all healthy, and that it is scientifically "not possible" for hogs to infect people with the illness. But lawmakers in the eastern state of Veracruz are now charging that large-scale hog and poultry operations are "breeding grounds" of infection that are making people sick and fueling the pandemic.

The nation's hog industry says it is not to blame for any human illness. "We deny completely that the influenza virus affecting Mexico originated in pigs, because it has been scientifically demonstrated that this is not possible," said a statement issued by the National Organization of Pig Production and Producers and its president, Mario Humberto Quintanilla González.
And the story will continue to unfold.


Anonymous said...

It's possible that Smithfield's CAFOs were the origin point. But so far, there's no actual evidence that this is the case. Grist hasn't "revealed" anything but its own speculations.,0,4356945.story

Amanda said...

People with regular exposure to pigs are at increased risk of swine flu. More than 1100 people worldwide have died from swine flu since it emerged in Mexico and the US in April, according to the latest figures from the World.