pageok
pageok
pageok
Avian Flu:

I just finished reading Michael Fumento's article on the feared Avian flu pandemic, "Fuss and Feathers". It is a long piece, but worth reading. Fumento's bottom line is that it is highly unlikely that the Avian flu will turn out to be a major pandemic. First, many flue pandemics have been predicted since the Spanish flu in 1918 and none of them has turned out to be as bad as predicted (remember the Swine flu in the 1970s?). Second, the trench warfare of WWI created uniquely dangerous conditions for the spread of the Spanish flu that we don't have today. Third, many of the deaths from the Spanish flu were actually caused by secondary bacterial infections which could be treated today by modern antibiotics. Fumento urges caution in responding, so as to make sure that the Avian flu hysteria is not worse than the flu itself. He suggests we should be prepared to respond, but we shouldn't panic yet.

An interesting read that presents a perspective on the Avian flu that I haven't seen anywhere else.

Update:

Michael Fumento writes:

A version with hyperlinks, plus a sidebar, plus illustrations is available at http://www.fumento.com/disease/flu2005.html. Those hyperlinks ... answer a lot of your readers' questions.

I have replaced the original link to the Weekly Standard article (that omitted the hyperlinks, sidebars, and illustrations) with the fuller version of the Fumento piece provided here.

A Berman (mail):
Fumento is smart, but he's a contrarian by profession and I think that might affect his objectivity.
1) The trench warfare of WWI did not create the uniquely dangerous conditions for the spread of the flu in the other two avian flu outbreaks of the 20th century.
2) The 50 percent fatality rate in the current avian flu isn't due to secondary infections.
11.26.2005 10:35am
arielc:
CDC just came out with a proposed rule which provides a new regime for tracking passengers and also updates the federal government's powers to quarantine. I'd like to hear any responses you may have to the proposed rule.

The link to the CDC rule is as follows: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/
11.26.2005 10:40am
Tony (mail):
His points seem like very small comforts. I would guess that there is a 1 in 10 chance that a virus like the swine flu (or now avian flu) will cause a major pandemic within the decade. That leaves lots of room for false alarms, and lots of room for catastrophe. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but overall it's very troubling.

The 1918 flu was really, really bad. Just because "many" people died of bacterial complications that could be prevented today doesn't lessen the specter of a virus that kills healthy 20 year olds within 24 hours of infection - and not due to bacterial complications at all.

There seems to be a real deficit of reasoning when it comes to dealing with modest risks in this country. Any preparation for a modest risk is seen as "overreaction" if it doesn't come to pass. Then everything is seen as a false alarm.

Want some cheap insurance? Stockpile wheat. Your neighbors will think you're nuts, but as cost-benefit ratios go, it's the best, cheapest insurance policy you can buy against moderate risks of this type. That this should be percieved as a "wingnut" activity speaks volumes about the American antipathy to rational, quantitative, and probabilistic reasoning.
11.26.2005 1:57pm
John Thacker (mail):
One of the biggest dangers is that we know that the PRC government will cover up and lie about what's going on, just as they did with SARS, and just as they were/are doing with the massive chemical spill there now.
11.26.2005 3:10pm
Salaryman (mail):
Although Fumento is in some sense a professional contrarian, he does seem to have been right about the relatively small likelihood of a heterosexual AIDS epidemic in the U.S. And while A Berman's points are valid, it should be reiterated that the other 20th Century flu outbreaks were far less severe than either the post-WWI epidemic or than the hysterical predictions being circulated today.

While there are innumerable problems that could not implausibly result in worldwide disaster in a worst-case scenario (remember Y2K, anyone?) most of them don't. Nonetheless, there are substantial psychological and financial incentives in favor of emphasizing the potential disastrous implications of any situation. (The psychological dynamic can be summarized as "look at me!! I'm saving the world!! I deserve a lot of adulation!" and the financial as "look at me!! I'm saving the world!! I deserve a lot of money!")

Thus, while it would be foolish not to keep an eye on avian flu to see whether it develops into a virulent and deadly human illness, and to take reasonable prophylactic steps against that event, the media seems to be hyping this beyond all proportion. I mean, is it really possible that this could be as devastating as Y2K? As bad as the SARS pandemic? That it could kill as many Americans as the Ebola virus? Well of course it is, and it's even possible that it will be as devastating as those events were predicted to be, and not as modest/nonexistent as they proved to be, but it pays to keep those experiences in mind in order to retain some sense of proportion.

And maybe I'm just as dumb as a post, but is there some obvious connection between piles of wheat and flu prevention/treatment that I'm just failing to catch on to? Or does "moderate risks of this type" refer to something other than contracting/dying from avian flu?
11.26.2005 3:19pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The 1918 flu was really, really bad. Just because "many" people died of bacterial complications that could be prevented today doesn't lessen the specter of a virus that kills healthy 20 year olds within 24 hours of infection - and not due to bacterial complications at all.

Exactly right. I've been reading Barry's "The Great Influenza," and while it's not well written ("Rising Tide" was much better), it's informative.

Young adults who normally were the best bet to survive the flu would die in 24 hours or so from an autoimmune disorder as the body turned on itself in combating the flu virus.

And "trench warfare" had relatively little to do with the flu, though the war in general certainly helped. The American training camps full of draftees were a hotbed for the disease, but recall how much less urban America was back then. I think that the crowding of modern cities would make up for the lack of wartime conditions.

Let's all hope that this latest flu is indeed a bust. I have no wish to live through the kind of history that Barry reports.
11.26.2005 3:33pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The 1918 flu was really, really bad. Just because "many" people died of bacterial complications that could be prevented today doesn't lessen the specter of a virus that kills healthy 20 year olds within 24 hours of infection - and not due to bacterial complications at all.

Exactly right. I've been reading Barry's "The Great Influenza," and while it's not well written ("Rising Tide" was much better), it's informative.

Young adults who normally were the best bet to survive the flu would die in 24 hours or so from an autoimmune disorder as the body turned on itself in combating the flu virus.

And "trench warfare" had relatively little to do with the flu, though the war in general certainly helped. The American training camps full of draftees were a hotbed for the disease, but recall how much less urban America was back then. I think that the crowding of modern cities would make up for the lack of wartime conditions.

Let's all hope that this latest flu is indeed a bust. I have no wish to live through the kind of history that Barry reports.
11.26.2005 3:41pm
anonymous coward:
Although his take on avian flu seems reasonable to me, it's good policy to be leery of anything Fumento writes.
11.26.2005 5:11pm
byomtov (mail):
There seems to be a real deficit of reasoning when it comes to dealing with modest risks in this country. Any preparation for a modest risk is seen as "overreaction" if it doesn't come to pass. Then everything is seen as a false alarm.

I don't get the wheat business either, but Tony is right about this. It's hardly fair to talk about "false alarms" unless you can show that there was reliable information demonstrating that previous risks were seriously over-estimated. Just because something bad didn't happen is no reason to think that fears of it happening were unjustified.
11.26.2005 5:56pm
Brian Cook (mail) (www):
"The American training camps full of draftees were a hotbed for the disease, but recall how much less urban America was back then. I think that the crowding of modern cities would make up for the lack of wartime conditions."

I think that's spot-on--and how about crowded airports and planes? You want an incubator for disease, do some air tests on a plane in-flight.
11.26.2005 9:23pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
While our major cities are MORE POPULOUS now compared to 1918, I'm not sure the POPULATION DENSITY is greater. Our cities now have significantly greater ground cover, when all the surrounding suburbs are included), and the many skyscapers allow growth upward as well. In 1918, is was commonplace for several families to share a 1 or 2 bedroom flat. I doubt that happens much anymore.(I've not done major research on this, so I could be wrong, but my claim is that it's not as obviously true as the prior posters suggest.)
11.27.2005 12:58am
lurker:
I think that Fumento is optimistic. First of all, the 1918 flu could kill fast. There are many reports of, say, a man feeling well, getting onto his train to work, experiencing the first symptoms on the train and being dead before reaching his destination.
In addition, it takes more than antibiotics. About 15 years ago, during an earlier flu scare, I went to a continuing medical education presentation at a local hospital. The infectious disease guy said that we wouldn't do much better than they did in 1919, because it would take intensive care beds to pull most of the people through, and obviously there aren't very many of those. Not to mention no good prevention, and heavy exposure of medical personnel...
11.27.2005 2:05am
Durk Sipkins (mail) (www):
I agree with Lurker.It is easy to poo-poo the avian flu. The fact is that we just don't know. Also, lately it has been published that the 1918 flu was avian, not swine. Prior to this it was said to be swine flu that jumped species in Kansas near Junction City. Either way, it pays to be prepared.
11.27.2005 2:23am
Def (mail) (www):
Looks good...
But, do you remember guys that Xmas is coming soon?
You can find exclusive gifts at :

http://jewelry4xmas.seavenue.net

Dont forget about Christmas and your family!
11.27.2005 2:50am
b.trotter (mail) (www):

In 1918, is was commonplace for several families to share a 1 or 2 bedroom flat. I doubt that happens much anymore.(I've not done major research on this, so I could be wrong, but my claim is that it's not as obviously true as the prior posters suggest.)

er... there are still plenty of segments of our society that are doing exactly that. Remember all those illegal aliens we keep hearing about in the news lately? It is not at all uncommon to see 10-12 people in a 2 bedroom house. Most of us middle class types try not to notice... But I've seen it, and I live in a rural area.
I agree with a great deal of the premise that the H5N1 "crisis" is severely inflated in the media. That's not to say that simple preparation is not in order. This year, 30,000 people, mostly elderly and small children, will die of ordinary influenza that circles the globe year after year. Interestingly enough, nobody considers this a Pandemic... when by definition, it is exactly that. Guess how the vaccine makers decide which strains of flu to build vaccines for? They look and see what hit on the other side of the world and extrapolate how that virus will look once it gets to the west... Sounds like a pandemic to me.
There's a reason that it's so easy for the Media to put the world in a terror. As the article says, quarantine is largely ineffective. A person with no symptoms whatsover can be virtually anywhere in the world in a day.
There are simple precautions that everybody can take without appearing panicky, and without nearly the expense of stockpiling a product that if abused could actually create resistance to a future pandemic...
Wash your hands often, in hot water, for at least 30 seconds with a good soap. It doesn't have to be "anti-bacterial" soap, but that doesn't hurt.
Follow up with a waterless hand sanitizer. The idea with these is that after you've rubbed your hands with these alcohol based sanitizers, you don't then touch the handles on the sinks, putting bacteria or viruses right back on your hands.
Last year, Paul Harvey started telling people on his daily news commentary to forego the handshake. A wave will do, or even a curt nod of the head.
Take your vitamins, especially Vitamin C, and the B complex.

The article's assertion that secondary complications were responsible for many of the 1918 deaths is quite true. It's also true of many virus outbreaks we experience today. A great example: Aids victims don't die of HIV, they die of all the opportunity diseases resulting from a compromised immune system.
He is right that the more rapid onset/deadlier the virus, the harder it is to spread. A well developed virus will incubate quietly, and make an effort not to be detected, so that it has a higher probability of transmission.
In the end, I believe the greatest damage is done in the hype and hysteria. Much like the terror threats... At a certain point, people are going to start to become immune to the warnings... "Oh, look, dear, they're saying we could get hit with a subway bomb, like the last 8 terror threats. You want a window seat?" "They told me Swine flu would kill me, they told me Aids would kill me, they told me Ebola was gonna wipe out the planet, last year it was Sars, this year the bird flu... I'm not worried." "Every time a Hurricane heads this way, they tell us to evacuate and nothing happens. I'm gonna stay right here and ride it out. Somebody hand me a margarita",
11.27.2005 4:05am
Jack Casidy (mail) (www):
The reason for the concern are the dire consequences if the virus mutates into one that can be passed between humans. With a 50% death rate following infection, even a small probability of infection commands that preparations for a pandemic are made.
11.27.2005 10:06am
Cornellian (mail):
Isn't the fact that we now have worldwide, relatively cheap and fast air travel another factor that distinguishes us from 1918 in terms of the ability of a disease to spread rapidly?
11.27.2005 10:58am
Hal:
Fumento's article has within the seeds of a more modest but more likely problem: an epidemic more on the scale of the one in the 50's and in the 60's. Swine flu in the 70's never took off (good!). Even now, tens of thousands of Americans die of flu each year. If the current avian flu mutates to humans it could turn into a super-killer like 1918 (inflammatory nightmare) or a more "modest" problem as per the 50's/60's. Those epidemics were more serious than the normal annual flu and could result in tens of thousands of "extra" US deaths and millions of illnesses. Considering the lengths the federal and state governments is willing to go to prepare against the risk of the death to thousands and tens of thousands from terrorism, it is not ridiculous to suggest that substantial measures be taken to prepare against an avian flu outbreak. The extra bonus is that many of these measures are going to be useful whenever the next big epidemic shows up, whenever that is.
11.27.2005 11:06am
Flu Helper (mail) (www):
I found a site that tells it like it is.

I also got my Tamiflu and Nanomasks without any delays or price gouging.

Not to many places to get tamiflu left.

Hope this helps everyone.

http://avian-flu-pandemic.com
11.27.2005 11:51am
Ross Levatter (mail):
In response to my claim that population DENSITY was much greater in 1918 than now (and it is population density that impacts the contagious threat):

"In 1918, is was commonplace for several families to share a 1 or 2 bedroom flat. I doubt that happens much anymore."

B Trotter responds:

"er... there are still plenty of segments of our society that are doing exactly that. Remember all those illegal aliens we keep hearing about in the news lately? It is not at all uncommon to see 10-12 people in a 2 bedroom house. Most of us middle class types try not to notice... But I've seen it, and I live in a rural area."

I don't disagree. My point was not that NO ONE lives like that anymore. My point, rather, was that it was COMMONPLACE then and uncommon now. It's restricted to a small portion of some large cities, not a large portion of all large cities. The square footage of livable space per person today is significantly greater than 1918. This is NOT becauce Bill Gates has a 40,000 sq. ft. home. It is because the vast majority of Americans are financially much better off than in 1918. Poor people today are much better off than poor people 100 years ago. One way they're better off is in having on average much less crowded living conditions. And this is relevant in the discusion of spreading contagious diseses. (Granted, the much more mobile nature of our world now works in the other direction.)
11.27.2005 12:16pm
cathyf:
Another factor is that of "herd immunity" where we immunize people far more universally (not just elderly or "at risk" people.) Then if we do have an infectious bug out there which has the potential to cause a pandemic, it dies out because there are too many people who are immune that act as a buffer with the at risk people.

But we do not have the technology to create vaccines quickly enough, or the capacity to manufacture enough vaccine to create a significant "herd immunity" against avian flu. An important way to create the technology and the capacity is to create demand -- and that's where the hype comes in. If we can get a few billion people willing to pay for flu vaccinations, this will put enough money in play that the technology and the capacity will follow. So, yeah, the right hype in the right amounts could be a significant part of preventing the pandemic.
Nonetheless, there are substantial psychological and financial incentives in favor of emphasizing the potential disastrous implications of any situation. (The psychological dynamic can be summarized as "look at me!! I'm saving the world!! I deserve a lot of adulation!" and the financial as "look at me!! I'm saving the world!! I deserve a lot of money!")
Very true, but there are also substantial psychological and financial incentives to play the skeptic.

Hype and hysteria that causes people to become blase about the whole thing is really bad. But hype that causes people to demand flu vaccines, and makes vaccination manufacture an economically viable activity, is "good hype" and shouldn't be discouraged.

cathy :-)
11.27.2005 2:45pm
Salaryman (mail):
Cathy: I don't disagree with much of what you say, except to the extent that you assume there is a high level of risk from avian flu -- which might (but might not) prove to be the case.

Obviously, if there is a substantial health risk from avian flu (or anything else), it makes sense, given human nature, to say "take this vaccine or you might die" rather than to say "there's a 1 in 100,000 risk that you will contract a fatal case of avian flu: take appropriate measures." Equally obviously, if there is NOT a substantial health risk substantial health risk from avian flu (or anything else), it makes little sense to divert funds (and hype) away from more pressing problems.

I also disagree with your statement that there are "substantial financial incentives to play the skeptic." Maybe I've been doing this wrong, but I remain both habitually skeptical and chronically unwealthy. Can you do a follow-up posting letting me know how I can use my dubiety to rake in oodles of cash?
11.27.2005 4:01pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Maybe I've been doing this wrong, but I remain both habitually skeptical and chronically unwealthy. Can you do a follow-up posting letting me know how I can use my dubiety to rake in oodles of cash?
Rob a bank, doubting you'll get caught?
11.27.2005 5:06pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
I watch Charlie Rose a lot, and several of his very smart interviewees recently -- Richard Posner of law and economics fame was the most recent -- have made the point that a man-made virus is now, or will shortly be a possibility.

Humans can synthesize a flu virus; it has been done, already. And, the recent analysis of the 1918 Flu virus demonstrates, knowledge about microbiologists about what makes a virus contagious or lethal is growing rapidly. Posner, who wrote a book about Catastrophe, asserted that the ability to synthesize smallpox was only five years away -- smallpox being the most potent combination of contagious and lethal known.

Unlike nuclear weapons, which require enormous effort to build, the actual processes involved in genetic manipulation of viruses are small-scale. We had better invest in the capability to monitor the spread of disease and make anti-virus drugs and vaccines rapidly.

Fumento makes the very good point that nature (evolution) does not have it in for us. What he overlooks is that other humans do.
11.27.2005 8:22pm
b.trotter (mail) (www):
Anderson, it's called "Selling Short". Just watch out for the Margin Call if the stocks have a good day.
11.27.2005 9:18pm
cathyf:
I also disagree with your statement that there are "substantial financial incentives to play the skeptic."
*grin* Ok, the "substantial" is only an appropriate modifier for psychological incentives.

cathy :-)
11.28.2005 12:14am
Alex R:
The problem I have with "flu hype" is not that avian flu isn't a real problem, but that it's a long-term problem...

Maybe the chance of a major flu pandemic is something like 5% per year over the next 10 years or so (number pulled out of thin air). But the flu hype, like all hypes, will die down after a year or so with no flu pandemic, while the possibility will remain, and indeed will be best addressed with long-term measures (vaccine development, attempts at eradication).
11.28.2005 10:35am
The Original TS (mail):
Alex, there are a couple of factors that make the current flu risk unlike other threatened disasters.

First, while avian flus are always present in the wild, there is currently an avian flu mutation which is both extremely deadly and extremely catching, if you happen to be a bird. This is both unusual and unsettling. If this flu were to 1) become as catching among humans as it is among birds and 2) be as deadly as it is among birds, it would make the black plague look like chicken pox. Even if it only, say, a quarter as deadly, it would still be an enormous disaster.

This brings up the second and arguably, more troublesome aspect of the problem. If 50 or a 100 million people in the U.S. catch the flu, they're on their own. There aren't anywhere near enough health proffesionals, let alone hospital beds, to treat them. This is going to cause massive and ugly social disruption which, apart from flu deaths and generalized terror, will also likely involve things like food shortages. The world of 1918 was a very different place. Our modern Just-In-Time economy cannot adequately function when 1/3 of the workers are out sick and the other 2/3s are hiding at home in fear of getting sick.

On the plus side, unlike in 1918, we're well on top of the problem. I know when a duck gets sick in Romania, for goodness sake. While fast travel will make the spread faster, fast communications brings you the news quicker and gives us a better shot at developing treatments and vaccines.

It's also true that we don't actually know how virulent this flu will be if/when it jumps to humans. Some of the recent H5N1 cases look pretty horrific but we have no way of estimating what percentage of cases these are. For all we know, there have been thousands of human H5N1 cases in SE Asia but these are mild and go undetected. It's only the handful of people who get really sick who come to the attention of the medical authorities. Of course, it's also possible that this current pandemic will never become human-human tranmissible at all.

On balance, with the federal response to Katrina firmly in mind, I think it wise to err on the side of caution and self-reliance. Some of these things are, arguably, dual use, like getting organized to be able to work from home or stocking up on some non-perishable groceries so I can stay, literaly, locked in my house for a few weeks should that become necessary. There are other steps one might take, like get ahold of antiviral drugs, that are both more expensive and more focussed.

In my mind, basic principles of risk analysis suggest that some fairly elaborate preparations might be in order. Even if the probability of a deadly outbreak is low, the consequences of such an outbreak would be horrific. I'm paying a substantial sum for fire insurance even though the odds of my house burning down are very small compared to the probability of a serious flu epidemic. Even if there is no flu outbreak, I will derive a certain peace of mind in knowing that I've taken steps should the worst occur. Plus, I'll be able to airily dismiss the paranoia of others because I've already acted on my paranoia. Benefits don't get much more tangible than that!
11.28.2005 6:06pm
kmyers (www):

Fumento is smart, but he's a contrarian by profession and I think that might affect his objectivity.


I agree. His books suggest he is a proponent of biotechnology and seems to support man's manipulations of nature and the environment. ISIS tends to strongly disagree, and since they are a body of highly trained, highly credited independent scientists, I think I would tend to agree more with their analysis than his.

What I find interesting is how many USA officials seem to be neatly "side stepping" some important connections, and how many Americans are blissfully unaware of what is happening in their own back yards.

For example, the "common" belief is that Asia utilizes very unsanitary farming practices, and therefore would be at a much higher risk than North America would ever be. They also like to "think" their antibiotics can kill just about anything and be able to handle a crisis.

Up until 6 weeks ago I might have agreed, until I discovered how many tons (and I'm talking millions of tons) of untreated antibiotic-resistent bacteria-laden manure is spread on USA soils each year by factory farms. Much of this is done in rural areas and seldom is it ever talked about or heard about in urban and/or metropolitan centers.

One school of thought regarding the H5N1 strain being so lethal to migratory birds is that it actually came from large livestock farming operations in the first place, and migratory birds are the "victims" not the originators.

If a person downloads their State "threatened waterbodies" report — aka 303 (d) report — some USA citizens might be shocked by the dramatic E. coli contamination increases in some state waterbodies.

Indiana is a good example of this, rising from 174 E. coli contaminated waterbodies in 2002 to 214 E. coli contaminated waterbodies in 2004 — that's 30 MORE in just 2 years. Think it doesn't affect towns and cities? Guess what feeds into the major aquifers.

Connect the dots and consider how many wild animals, including migratory birds, small forest creatures, amphibians (such as frogs), and even larger animals such as deer, elk, etc. forage for food on the very same land on which the untreated sewage is spread and drink from the waters already contaminated ...then look at the emerging diseases reports and notice how many antibiotic resistent strains of diseases have been popping up all over North America.

And yet, USA governing bodies do NOT want to tie any of those diseases directly to the HUGE sewage problems related to factory farming, because this could severely impact export markets as well as domestic retail markets here at home (and I won't even go into the potential stock market impact).

Even though the USA governing bodies in charge of our health and safety have studies confirming antibiotic resistent strains of E. coli and salmonella are showing up in lettuce and root vegetables harvested from land on which factory farm manure was spread (some scientific studies date back to 1998 and earlier) — and they have plenty of evidence that in some cases under certain conditions these pathogens can survive a great deal of time in the soil (in one study 4 months!!) after manure has been spread, this is not something the general population will hear much about, until enough people actually die from it and then they'll claim: "Oh my gosh! We just realized now there might be a problem."

Poore Dole got caught by surprise when they had to recall a bunch of their finished salad packages. That hurt their reputation and cost them a bundle, when the USDA knew all along that the potential trouble of lettuce absorbing E. Coli and/or salmonella was a VERY REAL threat as far back as 1998 (maybe even earlier).

Puh-leeeeease!

It's too easy for the USDA and other government bodies to point fingers at the UK for mad cow disease when some scientists claim there is an amazing resemblance to the spongiform organisms in Chronic Wasting Disease among deer, elk, moose and bear populations in both the USA and Canada... Is it really CWD? Or is it actually a mutated strain of Mad Cow Disease? I doubt we'll ever know because oddly enough, some strains of the same pathogens have been "discovered" in concentrated livestock farm manures - and we surely don't want people drawing any conclusions here, do we?

It's also easy to point fingers at the unsanitary conditions over in Asia with their poultry operations while neatly downplaying the rather large (if hopefully by now controlled??) outbreaks of various strains of avian flus in poultry and swine operations right here at home.

They've already completed 2 studies regarding the totally unsanitary conditions in some USA slaughterhouses where disease spreads quickly in the 2 to 4 hours animals are kept in holding pens before slaughter, as well as the "catching" of diseases by animals in transit to slaughter. And the FDA itself did the study randomly testing meat products from retail stores and confirmed a huge amount was E. coli and/or salmonella contaminated.

In most cases the animals on these large livestock operations are genetically engineered, making them disease-prone in the first place —- and their manure? Loaded with antibiotics as well as antibiotic resistent diseases.

Think about it. Human waste has to go through a treatment plant before potentially contaminating soil or water. Factory farms in most states can "volunteer" a plan of how they will treat or dispose of their wastes — if they're large enough. Most don't have to do anything, just dump it on the soil raw and untreated and pretend they didn't hurt anything. A strong rain comes along and happens to wash a bunch into ditches, rivers, streams —- hey, who cares, right?

I guess it depends on whether or not you have to eat off that soil or drink from that stream.

For example, check out:
USA Avian Flu Experiment

And here's another:
Would you eat it?

Study after study has been done over the past 20 years showing how pigs are one of the perfect "mixing vessels" for avian viruses as well as other diseases, and in the above two posts you get to see how many wild migrating Sandhill Cranes will be eating off a "dinner plate" potentially loaded with pathogens excreted from 2,496 pigs next year. Then they'll be flying off to either Mexico (fall) or Canada (spring) with heaven only knows what kind of pathogens in their stomachs, nicely mixing with whatever they carry naturally in their systems.

Why only 2,496 pigs? Why not 2,500?

Because 2,500 pigs would mean they will have to follow slightly stricter manure disposal regulations.

Is there a potential for an even more dangerous flu to evolve from that situation?

I'm no scientist, so I can't say for certain, but common sense tells me it surely opens the door for something bad to happen. Even more ridiculous, all that untreated raw manure (tons of it) will be spread on lands right next to a heavily forested wild animal reserve, on land which hundreds of different wild critters forage for food year-round.

Most of the new diseases showing up in humans in the state aren't even reportable (ie Chrons Disease) so most citizens aren't even aware of the "connection" some scientists are drawing between it and a pathogen commonly found in swine and cattle manure — even found in pasteurized dairy milk.

The USA won't investigate it. Several studies completed just this year and last year in Europe show the tiny micro-organism they believe is responsible for Chrons and Johnes Disease (cattle form of Chrons) appearing clearly in milk AFTER pasteurization. It's estimated anywhere from 20% to as high as 40% of all dairy cows in the USA are currently infected with the pathogen, and its been found in USA waterbodies when actually tested for it — and testing like that is rare in the USA from what I've seen. Another estimate says by the year 2015, 100% of all cattle in the USA will be infected if something isn't done soon because it spreads that fast. I'm not sure how accurate that claim is, but again the USA will not do the tests that are needed to either disprove it or deal with it.

The truth is, most citizens are... like I once was... blissfully unaware of what is happening in their own back yards. And completely unaware of how unprepared we really are on the health care front to deal with a catastrophe should one occur.

I'd say the above links to the hog factory farm under construction will be an interesting, and in my humble opinion DANGEROUS experiment that could affect birds, animals ...maybe even humans... far beyond USA borders.

However, I'm no scientist so I could be wrong... but I'm not "asleep" anymore.
12.4.2005 11:12pm