Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No, You Are Not Getting Swine Flu From Eating Pigs or Kissing Your Significant Other...

I received a great link via Twitter from NYTimes Dining and read the full (yet another) article on the swine flu and here is the crucial part for the cautious diners out there:

The CDC’s Dr. Anne Shuchat responded:

No, I can’t confirm that. I can say that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with other parts of the government on animal sources. You know, were doing that as a routine part of this kind of investigation. We’re at the point where we don’t have information about illness in pigs related to this virus, but that would be a normal thing to be looking into.

This despite the Q&A on the CDC website that says “Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen.”

But here’s where things get really strange: this strain of the swine flu virus is not just from pigs.

In an interview with Dr. Mike Hansen, a Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union, he said “What’s unique here, is that this is not a straight-up swine flu. This has genetic material from swine, avian, and human influenzas…they haven’t found anything like this in any pigs yet.”

Dr. Hansen pointed out that this might indicate a link to a small mixed farming situation, where pigs and perhaps ducks are kept, rather than a larger industrial farm. “So that means that in a certain ironic sense, the big CAFOs might not be the problem,” Hansen continued. “Until we know more….if we point in that direction too much initially, and that’s not where the flu is coming from, then they can use that to sort of discredit the critics of CAFOs. CAFOs are bad for a number of environmental and human health reasons, and that’s why so many groups are fighting them. What’s good is more ecologically logical agriculture, and CAFOs surely aren’t that. But until we know more we need to be testing both big and small pig farmers.”

So at this point, I don't think we need widespread panic and we probably don't need to worry about meat right now. I will say that I'm not happy about this whole issue with pigs and ducks being together as an issue. Well, if they can't co-exist in one farm, then they will just have to co-exist in my mouth. That somehow doesn't sound right...

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