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Quarantine for Afghanistan’s Only Pig

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There are no cases of swine flu in Afghanistan, but there is one victim: the country’s only pig, whose lonely existence got somewhat lonelier this week, when he was taken from the small, muddy enclosure he previously shared with deer and goats at Kabul’s zoo and placed in quarantine.

As Reuters explains: “The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.” (The Lede — New York Times)

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Capitalism and the flu

“Mike Davis, whose 2006 book The Monster at Our Door warned of the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, explains how globalized agribusiness set the stage for a frightening outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico:

‘The Spring Break hordes returned from Cancún this year with an invisible but sinister souvenir.

The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the fecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. Initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection rate already traveling at higher velocity than the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.’ ” (SocialistWorker.org).

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Industrial livestock production and swine flu

Taken from EPA website (http://www.epa.gov/reg...

“…[I]ndustrial livestock production is a powerful driver of viral (and bacterial) evolution. […In an article published yesterday at Socialist Worker.org, Mike Davis] emphasizes that the transition “from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hell, unprecedented in nature, containing tens, even hundreds of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems, suffocating in heat and manure, while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates and pathetic progenies” creates a perfect storm for evolving pathogens likely to establish resistance to antivirals and antibiotics. This is not just the case in China (everyone’s favorite target for allocating bird flu blame) or Mexico (everyone’s new favorite target for allocating swine flu blame). To quote Davis, anyone “who has ever driven through Tar Heel, N.C. or Milford, Utah–where Smithfield Foods subsidiaries each annually produce more than 1 million pigs as well as hundreds of lagoons full of toxic shit–will intuitively understand how profoundly agribusiness has meddled with the laws of nature.” In short, in addition to animals raised for slaughter in cruel conditions, chemically enhanced and/or genetically altered meat products, environmental degradation, and unjust toxic factory work conditions, the global industrial food complex is producing some really scary microbes as well.” (Somatosphere).

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Predicting Flu With the Aid of (George) Washington

The best way to track the spread of swine flu across the United States in the coming weeks may be to imagine it riding a dollar bill. The routes taken by millions of them are at the core of a computer model at Northwestern University that is predicting the epidemic’s future. Reassuringly, it foresees only about 2,000 cases by the end of this month, mostly in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston.” (New York Times )

Related:
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In a Mexican Village With Swine Flu, Complaints About a Hog Farm Persist

“While public health officials are still trying to determine where the outbreak of the swine flu started, there has been a lot of speculation online this week about a possible, though as yet unsubstantiated, link to an industrial hog farm in Veracruz, Mexico.

As my colleague in Mexico, Marc Lacey, reported on Wednesday, “state health authorities looking for the initial source of the outbreak,” toured the “million-pig hog farm in Perote, in Veracruz State.” Mr. Lacey explained:

The plant is half-owned by Smithfield Foods, an American company and the world’s largest pork producer. Mexico’s first known swine flu case, which was later confirmed, was from Perote, according to Health Minister José Ángel Córdova. The case involved a 5-year-old boy who recovered.

via The Lede Blog – NYTimes.