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THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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The Effect of Animal Agricult...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Abstract
Highly pathogenic av...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Introduction
Humans and other...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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The avian influenza virus is ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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The Life of Commercial Poultr...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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more a virus mutates, the mor...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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2015). The virus can also tra...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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p109). The 2009 H1N1 influenz...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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2005 - Research concludes tha...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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January 7-9, 2015 – The larg...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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likely transmitted by wild b...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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separated from their mother ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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(Personal Communication, 14 ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Many different sources cite ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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(Highly Pathogenic Avian Inf...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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In the document “HPAI Outbre...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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all other options have been ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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environment (Highly Pathogen...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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the USDA repopulated the pou...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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CDC – Influenza A viruses ci...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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immunity to them, and they c...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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other parts of the world. On...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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In a recent interview, Dr. A...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Other Threats to Public Heal...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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The health of the workers em...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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(personal communication, 10 ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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This paper draws a clear con...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Honestly, the only way we ca...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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References
ALL Findings. (n....
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Barclay, E. (2014, August 10...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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December 15, 2015, from http...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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Berry, J. (2011). Nations Ha...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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11). Retrieved December 15, ...
THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA
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2015, from http://www.nytime...
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The Effect of Animal Agriculture Housing Conditions on the Emergence of the Avian Influenza Virus

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The Effect of Animal Agriculture Housing Conditions on the Emergence of the Avian Influenza Virus

  1. 1. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 1 The Effect of Animal Agriculture Housing Conditions on the Recent Avian Influenza Outbreak Carrie Ducote Canisius College ANZO 501: Introduction to Anthrozoology December 15th , 2015
  2. 2. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 2 Abstract Highly pathogenic avian influenza has spread quickly to birds throughout the world. Millions of birds, mainly on large-scale, industrial poultry farms, in the United States alone have been depopulated as a result of the recent pandemic. Hundreds of people have also lost their lives from this deadly virus. This paper examines the effect of the animal agriculture industry, specifically the living conditions of the animals, on the emergence and spread of this virus. A large amount of animals living in cramped, high stress and unclean conditions on these farms cause viruses to have many chances to reproduce and therefore, mutate. These mutations result in viruses that are highly contagious and highly deadly. Research and opinions from leaders in the animal protection movement and public health fields are examined in addition to information from the United States Department of Agriculture. The possibility of the virus becoming more deadly to humans as a result of the animal agriculture industry is examined as well.
  3. 3. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 3 Introduction Humans and other animals have a long history of interactions. Nowhere is that history more evident or more deeply rooted than in our eating habits. Meat eating has been slowly increasing over the last century (Barclay). The average American is now expected to eat 21,000 animals in their lifetime (Akhtar, 2012, p87). But this increase in meat consumption has not come without consequences. In addition to ethical and environmental concerns, the production of large quantities of meat comes with several public health concerns (Akhtar 2012). In her book, Aysha Aktar, MD, MPH, a double board certified neurologist and public health specialist says “The industrialization and mass production of animals for food is now among the biggest contributing factors to emerging infectious diseases over the past few decades.” Most humans interact infrequently with live cows, chickens or pigs yet they depend on their meat or by-products for food (Akhtar, 2012, p 93). How can it be that our food choices have such a large impact on the success of infectious diseases? The answer is not a simple one but one this paper will use the following framework to explain. To break it down very simply, the progression of meat consumption to public health concerns flows something like this: Humans want to eat meat and eggs from birds. To generate the most profit for the producers of these products, the birds are raised in overcrowded conditions. These conditions lead the birds to be stressed. This stress causes the birds’ immune system to weaken. Lots of immunocompromised birds living together causes the avian influenza virus to mutate into a highly contagious and highly deadly strand.
  4. 4. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 4 The avian influenza virus is spreading quickly via wild birds and infecting lots of poultry on egg or meat farms. The more the virus reproduces and spreads, the more opportunity for it to mutate to become highly contagious among humans. If it becomes able to transmit from humans to humans easily, the virus is likely to kill millions of people How large of a health risk is Avian Influenza to humans? In 1918, a strand of influenza described as “an entirely avian-like virus that adapted to humans” (Taubenberger, Reid, Lourens, Wang, Jin, & Fanning, 2006, abstract) swept through the world and killed 30-50 million people (The Pandemic). Pandemic experts of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the National Institutes of Health in the USA caution, Even with modern antiviral and antibacterial drugs, vaccines, and prevention knowledge, the return of a pandemic virus equivalent in pathogenicity to the virus of 1918 would likely kill >100 million people worldwide. A pandemic virus with the (alleged) pathogenic potential of some recent H5N1 outbreaks could cause substantially more deaths. (Taubenberger & Morens, 2006, abstract) Public health experts are paying attention to the Avian Influenza outbreak, yet it appears the average person is still unaware of the recent outbreak or the way that it is connected to their food choices. This paper draws a clear connection between the housing conditions of animals raised for human consumption and the contribution of these conditions to the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in the United States.
  5. 5. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 5 The Life of Commercial Poultry To understand the effect that housing conditions of commercial poultry has had on the development of Avian Influenza, one must first understand what those basic housing conditions are. Turkeys and chickens raised for meat, are usually housed in large grower houses, devoid of sunlight and stimulation, and containing thousands or even millions of birds living together (Akhtar, 2012, p 89). The birds are frequently fed antibiotics and growth hormones, causing them to grow unnaturally large at a young age (Akhtar, 2012, p 89). These medications, in combination with selective breeding, result in chickens and turkeys who grow much larger, much faster than is natural (Akhtar, 2012, p89). Chickens are unable to use their legs due to their staggering weight and are frequently immobile (Akhtar, 2012, p 89). Egg laying hens usually have the end of their beaks amputated at a young age and are frequently housed in battery cages so small they are unable to stretch their wings (Akhtar 2012, p 89,). Besides the cramped conditions, the animals’ environments are pathogen laden. With such a large number of animals concentrated together, their waste piles up quickly and they are continuously inhaling the recirculating aerosolized fecal matter, methane and ammonia (Akhtar, 2012, p90). The last step before slaughter is transport on a crowded truck through all weather conditions and usually the most distressing part of a food animal’s short life (Akhtar, 2012, p 90). A lot of stressed animals in close quarters with unclean conditions is a perfect storm for pathogen strengthening and emergence. Stress is known to increase animal’s vulnerability to disease and the close quarters and circulation of waste creates an environment where pathogens are frequently reproducing and gaining opportunities for mutation (Akhtar, 2012, p 91). The
  6. 6. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 6 more a virus mutates, the more opportunity for it to become highly infectious among humans (Akhtar, 2012, p91) What is Avian Influenza? Influenza viruses are categorized as either type A, B or C and there are multiple subtypes within each category (Akhtar, 2012, p 103). Influenza C viruses cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics (Types of Influenza Viruses). Influenza B viruses only infect humans and cause relatively mild, seasonal flu infections in the winter months (Akhtar, 2012, p103). Influenza A viruses can also cause seasonal pandemics and are divided into subtypes based on two protons on the surface of the virus: the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N) (Types of Influenza Viruses). There are 18 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes (Types of Influenza Viruses). Avian Influenza strains H5N1, H5N8 and H5N2 have been found in the United States in the last year (Coston, 2015). Avian Influenza is a virus that infects several types of birds including chicken, turkey, quail, geese and some wild birds (Protect Your Birds from Avian Influenza). It is transmitted by direct bird to bird contact as well as via aerosol (Romich, 2008). Most Avian Influenza virus strands are classified as Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) and produce mild respiratory infections (Romich, 2008). All Avian Influenzas start off as mild, LPAI viruses but once they enter domestic bird populations, they can rapidly mutate into highly pathogenic influenza viruses (HPAI) (Akhtar, 2012, p106). HPAI causes a much more severe infection with a mortality rate of close to 100% among infected birds. (Romich, 2008). The disease is frequently spread to commercial flocks via the droppings of migratory waterfowl, who are typically asymptomatic, flying over commercial poultry operations (Coston,
  7. 7. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 7 2015). The virus can also travel on manure, egg flats, crates, other farming materials/equipment, and people who have picked up the virus on their clothing, shoes, or hands (Protect your Birds from Avian Influenza). Avian Influenza affects the bird’s nervous, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems and has an incubation period of 3 to 14 days (Romich, 2008). Clinical signs of infected birds include lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks, purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, stumbling or falling down, diarrhea, and sudden death without any clinical signs (Protect your Bird from Avian Influenza). A Brief History of Influenza Infections It would be impossible to discuss the history of influenza infections without studying the 1918 pandemic, commonly referred to as “the mother of all pandemics” because it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history (Akhtar, 2012, p 104). In May of 1918, healthy men in Europe began to fall ill, and the virus spread quickly throughout the world from there (The Pandemic). The outbreak of 1918 left about twenty million people dead worldwide (The Pandemic). In the United States alone, about 675,000 people in a population of 105 million died from the influenza virus outbreak of 1918 (The Pandemic). What made this virus particularly lethal was the fact that it was likely an Avian Influenza A virus that most humans had not encountered before (Akhtar, 2012, p 104). Since 1918, there have been three other influenza pandemics: in 1957, 1968, and 2009 (Akhtar, 2012, p104). The 2009 outbreak was caused by another influenza A virus, and the same virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, H1N1, commonly referred to as “swine flu” (Akhtar, 2012,
  8. 8. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 8 p109). The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic was the mildest of the four recorded human influenza pandemics (Akhtar, 2012, p 108). Timeline of Infection The following is a timeline of events concerning the most recent worldwide outbreak of HPAI affecting several species: 1996 – 2014, Timeline information provided by The World Health Oranization’s 1-H5N1 avian influenza: Timeline of major events, 2012. 1996 – HPAI H5N1 first isolated from a farmed goose in the Guangdong province of China. 1997 – H5N1 continues to spread throughout poultry farms in Hong Kong. First reports of humans becoming infected by H5N1; 18 confirmed cases including 6 fatalities. 2003 – China reports 4 more cases of H5N1 in humans including two fatalities. 2003-2004 – Republic of Korea reports H5N1 is spreading to their poultry. Two tigers and two leopards at a zoo in Thailand die of H5N1 infection after being fed infected chicken. January 2004 – Vietnam, Thailand and Japan, Cambodia and Lao confirm H5N1 is moving through their poultry. Sporadic human cases, including fatalities, are reported in Vietnam and Thailand. Hong Kong confirms H5N1 in wild bird. February 2004 – H5N1 confirmed in poultry in Indonesia and China. China culls 9 million birds and begins vaccinating poultry. Thailand confirms a domestic cat was infected with H5N1 after eating an infected pigeon. 2004- H5N1 continues to spread across Southeast Asia. Chinese researchers report preliminary findings of H5N1 infection in pigs. Birds, cats, and humans continue to succumb to the virus.
  9. 9. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 9 2005 - Research concludes that a girl in Thailand probably passed H5N1to at least her mother in September 2004, causing fatal disease. This is the first published account of probable human to human transmission, resulting in severe disease, of any avian influenza virus. Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, Romania, Croatia, United Kingdom, Kuwait and Ukraine all report the first outbreaks of H5N1 among birds in their countries. 2006 – HPAI is detected in Iraq, Nigeria, Greece, Italy, Germany, Egypt, France, India, Australia, Malaysia, Hungary, Georgia, Pakistan, Switzerland, Poland, Austria, Myanmar, Denmark, Afghanistan, Israel, Sweden, Cambodia, Jordan, Czech Republic, Sudan, Spain and several other countries across Europe and Asia. HPAI is detected in some wild birds in the United States. Several fatal cases in humans continue to be reported. 2007 – 2014 – HPAI H5N1 continues to spread around the world, Multiple human fatalities reported. A more detailed timeline of the most recent Avian Influenza outbreak of 2014 – 2015 is as follows: December 2nd, 2014 – H5N2 HPAI strain detected in two chicken and turkey farms in British Columbia, Canada. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) December 19th, 2014 – United States authorities confirm first case of H5N8 HPAI in mixed poultry flock in Oregon. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) January 2015 – H5N2 avian influenza reported in Washington State and Idaho (HPAI 2015 Data).
  10. 10. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 10 January 7-9, 2015 – The largest importers of United States Poultry, Mexico, Canada and China ban imports from affected areas. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) February 2015 – HPAI confirmed in California. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) March, 2015 – HPAI confirmed in Minnesota, Arkansas and Kansas (HPAI 2015 Data). April, 2015 – HPAI confirmed in Wisconsin. North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa (HPAI 2015 Data). April 20th, 2015 –Wisconsin declares a state of emergency (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) April 23rd, 2015 - Minnesota declares a state of emergency (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) May 1, 2015 - Iowa declares a state of emergency (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) May 5, 2015 - United States authorities approve $330 million in emergency funds to fight the spread of bird flu. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) May 11, 2015 – HPAI confirmed in poultry flock in Indiana. (Timeline of Bird Flu Outbreak) May 2015 – HPAI confirmed in Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska (HPAI 2015 Data). June 17th, 2015 – Last reported confirmed case of HPAI in United States (Iowa) (HPAI 2015 Data). This timeline of events shows the path of a virus that is highly contagious originating in Asia and swiftly moving across oceans to eventually end up in the United States. There are four major flyways or routes which wild birds migrate in the United States: The Pacific, Mississippi, Central and Atlantic (North American Migration Flyways). Therefore, when studying a virus
  11. 11. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 11 likely transmitted by wild birds migrating north in the spring along one of these routes, it makes sense that we would see infections cluster along these flyways. HPAI moves from the migratory paths of birds primarily in the Pacific Flyway (Oregon, Idaho, California and Washington) to the Central Flyway (Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) and then to the Mississippi Flyway (Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin). To date in the United States alone, 48,082,293 birds have succumbed to the disease or been killed in response to the outbreak (All Findings). Worldwide, nearly 650 cases of humans contracting avian influenza have been confirmed so far, with 60% of human infections resulting in death (Flu.Gov). Most human cases of H5N1 virus infection have occurred in people who had recent close contact with sick or dead poultry (Flu.Gov). Unlike other types of flu which have resulted in massive human casualties, H5N1 usually does not spread directly from human to human (Flu.Gov). Most people do not have close contact with sick or dead poultry therefore it is unlikely that H5N1 will become a large threat to humans unless the virus gains the ability to be transmitted directly from one human to another. As mentioned earlier, in 2009, a version of Avian Influenza, H1N1 or Swine Flu, became infections in humans and spread quickly throughout the United States (Aktar 2012). Luckily, the symptoms were relatively mild and the 2009 pandemic was not very deadly to humans (Akhtar 2012, p104). However, the 2009 outbreak should serve as a reminder that pigs are highly susceptible to avian and human influenza A viruses and are commonly referred to as the “mixing vessels’ in whom avian and human viruses co-mingle (Akhtar, 2012, p109). New influenza strains frequently emerge from pigs since multiple virus strains can infect pigs and exchange genes during reproduction (Akhtar, 2012, p 109). Pigs raised for human consumption are kept in cramped gestation crates while pregnant and housed in small, indoor, feeding houses after being
  12. 12. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 12 separated from their mother (Akhtar, 2012, p 90). These housing conditions prevent the animals from exhibiting normal behavior and increase their stress (Akhtar 2012, p 90). The housing cramped and unclean housing conditions of Pigs on factory farms are also likely to provide an ideal environment for viruses to reproduce and mutate (Akhtar, 2012). So if H5N1 has a high mortality rate among infected humans but does not transmit from human to human easily and H1N1 transmits from human to human easily but does not have a high mortality rate, is there a chance the two could exchange genes within the mixing vessel (pig) and create a super virus capable of both transmitting from human to human easily and also killing many of those who become infected? Yes. It is becoming increasingly popular in Asia and the United States to localize pig and chicken farms within the same region proving easy access for HPAI to be transmitted from chicken to pig farms (Akhtar 2012 p 110). Pigs may easily become infected with H5N1 by chickens during transport of either species or, as mentioned before, by migratory waterfowl (Akhtar 2012). In fact, a study published in 2010 found 7.4% of pigs tested on farms in Indonesia already carried H5N1 (Nidom, Takano, Yamada, Sakai-Tagawa, Daulay, Aswadi, & Kawaoka, 2010). Worse yet, the pigs showed no clinical signs of infection, “indicating that influenza A (H5N1) viruses can replicate undetected for prolonged periods, facilitating avian virus adaptation to mammalian hosts (Nidom, et al, 2010, abstract).” In a recent interview, Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, former Assistant Surgeon General and current Chief Veterinary Officer at the Humane Society of the United States, points out another interesting aspect of the recent HPAI outbreak as it relates to conditions on factory farms: most of the infected farms were large scale, egg laying operations (Personal Communication, 14 December 2015). Not many cage free or backyard flocks were affected
  13. 13. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 13 (Personal Communication, 14 December 2015). What accounts for the difference in infection rates? Blackwell blames it on a few distinct differences in the way the birds live: cage free birds have more space, experience more natural temperature variations and have access to direct sunlight (Personal Communication, 14 December 2015). Blackwell also said the following: The industrial operations are less natural for the animals. There are some where you’ve got tens of hundreds of thousands of individuals in fairly crowded conditions, artificial ventilation pretty much, artificial lighting. It’s an unnatural set of conditions. Avian Influenza virus, like most influenza viruses, does not survive very long in sunlight. It’s considered to be maybe a two hour life expectancy when in direct sunlight. When you go to a facility where the sunlight is not there but also the air is such that an individual sneezes or coughs, there are a lot of individuals within 10 feet of that, then you have this whole line of individuals pretty much lined to pick up the viral particles from the coughing and sneezing which wouldn’t be the same if the birds were in less intensive conditions. (personal communications, 14 December 2015) Biosecurity Although the animals most widely affected by this pandemic are poultry on commercial farms, this pandemic has had an effect on smaller farms keeping animals as pets also. Farm Sanctuary operates farm animal shelters in both California and New York where rescued chickens and turkeys reside (Coston 2015). They have halted visitor access to the bird areas, stopped rescuing new birds and physically isolated their bird areas using tarps (Coston 2015). For the staff that must enter and exit these areas, Farm Sanctuary has implemented strict biosecurity measures (Coston 2015).
  14. 14. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 14 Many different sources cite biosecurity measures such as those implemented by Farm Sanctuary as the best way to protect a flock from infection (Coston 2015). In their brochure, Protecting Your Flock from Avian Influenza, The USDA reports the following six biosecurity measures to keep birds free of disease: 1 – Restrict access to the property housing the flock and to the flock itself. 2- Use proper sanitation, wash hands, wear clean clothes, and sanitize everything. 3- Limit purchasing new birds from an unknown source, quarantine new birds for 30 days. 4- Do not share equipment with other farms. 5- Know the warning signs of HPAI and check the flock regularly. 6- Report sick birds to the USDA. With farmers following the suggestions listed above from the USDA, it may seem unlikely that any new flocks could become infected. However, there are still many ways new birds may become infected, from biosecurity breeches to dander of birds blowing through fans (Coston 2015). According to Coston, No one really seems to know how the infection continues to spread in spite of these precautions (personal communication, 10 December 2015). Response to Infection When a farmer thinks he may have an infection of HPAI on his farm, he contacts the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who respond by visiting the farm and assigning a caseworker to help the farmer through the process (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). The farm is placed under quarantine and the birds on the farm as well as birds on nearby farms are tested for HPAI
  15. 15. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 15 (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide to Help You Understand the Response Process). Testing is done by swabbing the throat of live or dead birds suspected to be infected (Avian Influenza Diagnostics and Testing). The swab is then sent to one of more than 50 USDA- approved laboratories that are part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (Avian Influenza Diagnostics and Testing). If one of these tests is positive for HPAI, the sample is then forwarded to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa for further testing and final confirmation (Avian Influenza Diagnostics and Testing). While the samples are being tested, the USDA works with farmers to get an accurate inventory of their birds including numbers, ages, and species so that they can reimburse the farmer “100 percent of fair market value” for their birds (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). If the infected birds are left alone, their death from HPAI will be certain and gruesome: a chicken’s eyes and head will swell, it will bleed from its nostrils, lose the ability to walk, get diarrhea and struggle to breathe (Rogers 2015). Given this consideration, once the final positive HPAI result is confirmed, depopulation begins on the farm immediately with the goal of having the entire farm depopulated within 24 hours (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). The American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals defines depopulation in the following way: The killing of animals in large numbers in response to an animal health emergency (eg, catastrophic infectious disease, mass intoxication, natural disaster) where all due consideration is given to the terminal experience of the animal, but the circumstances surrounding the event are understood to be exigent and extenuating. Depopulation may not meet the requirements of euthanasia due to situational constraints.
  16. 16. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 16 In the document “HPAI Outbreak 2014-2015: Stamping-Out & Depopulation Policy”, The USDA says the following about depopulation: Mass depopulation and euthanasia are not synonymous, and APHIS recognizes a clear distinction. Euthanasia involves transitioning an animal to death as painlessly and stress- free as possible. Mass depopulation is a method by which large numbers of animals must be destroyed quickly and efficiently with as much consideration given to the welfare of animals as practicable, given extenuating circumstances. Mass depopulation is employed in an HPAI response to prevent or mitigate the spread of HPAI through elimination of infected or potentially infected poultry. Depopulation techniques include spraying a water-based foam into the houses to suffocate the chickens or placing them in a chamber with carbon dioxide gas (Rogers 2015). Neither method is particularly kind to the birds but the USDA recently began recommending a third method of depopulation that is more controversial (Rogers 2015). The USDA’s Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan says the following regarding approved depopulation methods for commercial poultry: Standard methods (foaming, CO2) are preferred, as they are the most humane and effective methods to depopulate large poultry flocks. However, if standard methods cannot achieve the 24-hour goal, the APHIS National Incident Commander will approve—on a case-by-case basis—the use of ventilation shutdown for depopulation. While not a preferred method, it could save the lives of thousands of birds by reducing the risk of disease spread. Ventilation shutdown requires no specialized equipment or personnel, and can be implemented immediately upon recommendation by Federal, State and industry participants at the affected flock to the National Incident Commander that
  17. 17. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 17 all other options have been considered and that no other option will achieve the 24 hour depopulation goal. Ventilation shutdown is the name of a process whereby all of the air systems providing ventilation to the poultry houses are shut off resulting in death by asphyxiation and hyperthermia (Rogers 2015). Once the ventilation systems are shut off, temperatures slowly rise and the birds’ internal organs start to fail, the small amount of oxygen in the house is quickly inhaled and without a way to replenish the supply, the birds suffocate (Rogers 2015). According to Michael Blackwell, ventilation shutdown can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours and “it can be pretty horrible” (Rogers, 2015). After all of the confirmed infected birds are depopulated, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) sets up a 10 km control zone around the perimeter of the known infection which is monitored closely for signs of infection (HPAI Outbreak 2014-2015: Stamping-Out & Depopulation Policy). To decrease the population density of susceptible poultry, “certain circumstances” may warrant accelerating the depopulation of birds not confirmed to be infected with HPAI in the control zone (HPAI Outbreak 2014-2015: Stamping out & Depopulation Policy). Once the birds have been depopulated, disposal, cleaning and disinfecting begins (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide to Help You Understand the Response Process). Disposal methods include composting, burial, incineration, rendering, or landfilling (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide to Help You Understand the Response Process). The USDA recommends sanitizing the barn, equipment, and all affected areas of the farm and helps farms with the cleaning and disinfecting process. (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). After cleanup and a 21 day waiting period, the USDA returns to the farm to test for any traces of HPAI left in the
  18. 18. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 18 environment (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). Once cleared, the farm may restock with a new flock of birds and begin production again (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide to Help You Understand the Response Process). The poultry industry is a large contributor to the United States economy. According to one study by the National Chicken Council and the US Poultry and Egg Association, the chicken industry directly and indirectly provides 1,010,250 jobs, $47 billion in wages, $197.5 billion in economic activity and $17.2 billion in government revenue (National Chicken Council). Therefore, a blow like HPAI infection to the industry could mean a blow to the entire United States economy. To avoid repercussions, shortly after the initial positive HPAI test is confirmed, the USDA begins a step of HPAI response labeled as “compensate”, meaning they provide indemnity payment for fair market value of lost birds as well as costs of disposal, cleaning and disinfecting to the farmer (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process). These payments are to encourage the early, voluntary identification and destruction of diseased birds (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza USDA Indemnity Program Fact Sheet). Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Agriculture for the Humane Society for the United States says, “We need this as transparent as possible and the only way we get that is by writing checks. Unfortunately, you don’t get much of an incentive for industry to change (Carr 2015).” To date, the HPAI outbreak has cost United States taxpayers $950 million (Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan). Although some argue that these payments are necessary, some taxpayers are unhappy about them. Judy Bradberry, PhD, RN (personal communication, 10 December 2015) says “From many perspectives, I am deeply concerned that
  19. 19. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 19 the USDA repopulated the poultry farms directly affected by HPAI. As a vegan… I have strong feelings against use of my tax dollars as an investment in the poultry industry.” Reaction to the Pandemic from outside the USDA When discussing the onset of a virus pandemic as likely to have originated from the farms where our food is raised, one may assume the governmental agencies to be the authority on identifying sources of the outbreak as well as working towards identifying the cause of the pandemic and taking steps to prevent similar, future outbreaks. Dr. Aktar told me in a recent interview that this is not the case: I work at the FDA in the office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats. And emerging threats are things like Ebola, SARS, swine flu and bird flu and not once do we ever discuss how and why these viruses are emerging. It’s all focused on what vaccines, antibiotics, what drugs can we come up with. It’s never on the prevention. So no, I don’t see any kind of solution coming from our government in the near term. The majority of people eat meat and they eat these chickens so I think the same blinders are on these folks that there are with just the average person out on the street. When you think back to when our governmental agencies attacked the tobacco industry, it happened at a time when it was much easier because most public health folks, most of the governmental agencies, were not smoking tobacco. So it was very easy for them to see tobacco as being unhealthy and being a public health problem. But here, most people eat meat so it’s like having most people smoke tobacco and then asking them to go on an anti-tobacco campaign. It’s just not going to happen until these people take their blinders off. A few reactions to HPAI from other agencies:
  20. 20. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 20 CDC – Influenza A viruses circulating among poultry have the potential to recombine with human influenza A viruses and become more transmissible among humans. If HPAI Asian H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission among humans, an influenza pandemic could result, with potentially high rates of illness and death worldwide. Therefore, the HPAI H5N1 epizootic continues to pose an important public health threat. (Public Health Threat of Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus) Farm Sanctuary - Some diseases, like H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Avian Flu, are communicable from animals to humans. These “zoonotic” diseases have the potential to become pandemics. Experts believe that the outbreak of H1N1 was likely caused by the overcrowding of pigs on factory farms and the storage of their waste in giant manure lagoons (Factory Farming and Human Health). The Humane Society of the United States - It’s important to recall that bird flu is in many ways caused and exacerbated by the intensive confinement of farm animals that’s rampant in egg factories. (HSUS Statement on Outbreak of Bird Flu at Baer Poultry Co. in Minnesota) World Health Organization – Avian Influenza (AI) viruses can sometimes spread to domestic poultry and cause large-scale outbreaks of serious disease. Some of these AI viruses have also been reported to cross the species barrier and cause disease or subclinical infections in humans and other mammals. The A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) AI viruses remain two of the influenza viruses with pandemic potential, because they continue to circulate widely in some poultry populations, most humans likely have no
  21. 21. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 21 immunity to them, and they can cause severe disease and death in humans.( Avian influenza, World Health Organization). The Poultry Federation - There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses (Avian Flu – No Threat to Food Supply or Public Health). American Egg Board - The strains of this disease are not transmissible to humans, and no human infections with these viruses have been detected (Avian Influenza & Eggs: FAQs). National Turkey Federation - The modern type of animal production used in the United States is actually more protective of birds and their health than more traditional systems. In the United States, chickens and turkeys are usually raised in enclosed buildings called growout houses. More than 20,000 chickens or 4,000 turkeys are placed in a single building. Yet the health of the poultry flocks today is probably better than it has ever been. This is because of improvements in poultry housing, selective breeding for disease resistance, protection from potential disease carriers such as wild birds and continuous health oversight by poultry veterinarians. (Questions and Answers On Avian Influenza) Looking to the Future: What happens next? Currently, the outbreak of HPAI in the United States has died down, there has not been a confirmed case since June 17th , 2015 (All Findings). On December 11th , 2015, North Dakota’s Board of Animal Health lifted a ban on bird movements to shows, exhibitions and public sales which was implemented in April as a response to the HPAI outbreak (Ban on bird movements due to bird flu lifted in North Dakota). However, Avian Influenza continues to spread throughout
  22. 22. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 22 other parts of the world. On December 7th , 2015, France reported at least 5 new outbreaks although they did not specify the strand (Schnirring 2015). French Polynesia banned poultry imports from France as a result of the reported outbreaks (Fearing influenza, French Polynesia bans poultry from France). Germany and Italy both recently reported outbreaks of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza, H5N2 (Schnirring 2015). In November, A duck shot in Oregon (Schnirring 2015) and one shot in British Columbia (Flu Scan for Nov 30, 2015) both tested positive for Avian Influenza strains. However, the avian influenza virus is expected to begin spreading again once the birds fly from the north to the south, sometime from January to March (Rogers 2015). Health officials are unable to predict the path or the scale of the second wave of avian influenza infections expected to hit in the coming months. According to the CDC, the United States Federal government maintains a stockpile of H5N1 vaccines for humans which could be used the case of an HPAI pandemic in humans (Prevention and Treatment of Avian Influenza A Viruses in People). The USDA is also considering the use of a vaccine to protect poultry flocks in the United States from avian influenza, but has not approved one (HPAI and Vaccine Use). According to the USDA, before they approve the use of a vaccine, they would consider the following: the extent and rate of the outbreak, the type of poultry affected, the impact on domestic and international markets, the impact of American producers to export their poultry, and the effectiveness and availability of the vaccine (HPAI and Vaccine Use). However, vaccines have proved to be ineffective in preventing the spread of HPAI in the past (Amen, Vemula, Zhao, Ibrahim, Hussein, Hewlett, Moussa & Mittal, 2015). Researchers studied a large poultry farm in Egypt, where avian influenza is endemic and a vaccination policy is in place, but found the vaccine offered little protection (Amen et al, 2015).
  23. 23. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 23 In a recent interview, Dr. Akhtar offers an explanation about how a vaccine could fail to offer protection: The virus is constantly mutating when so many animals are confined in these factory farms. There’s so much ability for these viruses to spread and each time [they reproduce], another virus is created and there are likely some mutations in its DNA that could cause it to be more resistant to those products. The more you use vaccines the more likely you’re going to get viruses that are resistant to those vaccines and those viruses will continue to thrive whereas the other viruses will not so then, those vaccines will no longer work or not work as effectively. Vaccines and antibiotics are, at most, a temporary fix even if they do work. I think we would see a large number of deaths before we even able to produce such medicines that would be able to help us. Generally, the public seems unconcerned with the recent avian influenza outbreak. Barry (2011) contributes that to past outbreaks, stating “Because H5N1 has not become pandemic and H1N1 turned out to be mild, the idea that influenza is no longer a threat has become pervasive.” The experts I spoke to, Akhtar, Blackwell and Warren all agreed that, although this outbreak is clearly tied to conditions within the agriculture industry, those conditions are not likely to change anytime soon. Melissa Warren, Senior Specialist – Influenza at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (Personal Communication, 10 December 2015) did say in a recent interview that she sees the public health sector and the animal agriculture industry beginning to recognize that connection and work together more frequently.
  24. 24. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 24 Other Threats to Public Health This paper draws a connection between animal agriculture and public health as it pertains to the emergence of new, pandemic, viral threats to humans. There are, however, many more threats to public health emerging from the animal agriculture industry. One of the most frequently discussed of these threats pertains to routine antibiotic usage in these farms (Akhtar, 2012). Although banned in the European Union, factory farms in the United States and China continue to routinely administer a wide range of antibiotics to animals (Akhtar, 2015, p. 100). The antibiotics are able to fight off most bacterial infections but the bacteria are constantly reproducing and mutating in these farms (Akhtar 2012). Similar to vaccine usage, the occasional, mutated bacteria strand not affected by the antibiotics is then able to thrive thereby creating widespread antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens (Akhtar 2012). Since humans usually rely on the same antibiotics widely used in these farms, the emergence of zoonotic, antibiotic resistant pathogen could have pandemic potential (Akhtar 2012). In addition to the threat posed by factory farms of antibiotic and vaccine resistant pathogens, there are a few other public health concerns to mention. The first is the waste produced by these farms. Most hog farms funnel their waste into large lagoons and then spray it onto nearby cropland (Pollution from Giant Livestock Farms Threatens Public Health). This spray makes these farms an unpleasant neighbor resulting in the lowest income residents living nearby and having their health threated (Pollution from Giant Livestock Farms Threatens Public Health). The effect on human health of being exposed to these sprays include seizures, comas, headaches, shortness of breath, wheezing, excessive coughing and diarrhea (Pollution from Giant Livestock Farms Threatens Public Health).
  25. 25. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 25 The health of the workers employed by the farm is also worsened by the harsh conditions on the farm. According to the CDC, the majority the humans who have contracted HPAI are farm workers who came into close contact with the virus in birds (Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza A (H5N1) in People). The health of the workers on these farms, usually immigrants, is also poor due to frequent exposure to high concentrations of animal waste (Akhtar, 2012 p 92). The side effects include a wide array of airway and other diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, mucus membrane irritation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute toxicity from high-dose gas exposure (Akhtar, 2012 p 92). Conclusion The reaction to the HPAI pandemic has mostly come from those within the animal agriculture or public health communities. Given that millions of birds have become infected and been killed, sometimes via gruesome methods, one may assume that the public is aware of the outbreak and appalled to learn of these deaths. The average person, however, seems to be unaware of the Avian Influenza pandemic. Dr. Akhtar said the following: We had a major outbreak occurring among the chicken farms here in the US and millions of animals were killed. They were foamed to death and no one really seemed to care. The whole process for those poor chickens is miserable. But no one seemed to really care. People aren’t going to care about it until it affects us (personal communication, 10 December 2015). Perhaps it is because birds can be difficult to care about; they are not as warm and snuggly as dogs, cats or even pigs. Akhtar pointed out that the United States culture has not been kind to them as is evident by the use of the word “chicken” as an insult to mean cowardly
  26. 26. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 26 (personal communication, 10 December 2015). In fact, the only federal legislation mandating the treatment of food animals, The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, does not cover poultry (Humane Methods of Slaughter Act). When I began my research, I reached out to several industry experts. As mentioned, I was able to interview Aysha Akhtar, Michael Blackwell, and Melissa Warren. In addition to those three, Nathan Nobis, a professor of animal ethics, responded and assisted me with additional resources. I also reached out to Rick Meinersmann, Bacterial Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance Research Microbiologist at the USDA and Robert Cobb, State Veterinarian with the Georgia Department of Agriculture. I did not hear back from either party affiliated with the Department of Agriculture. I am unsure if that is due to me communicating my own bias in my emails to them or for some other extenuating circumstance. The one person I was able to connect with outside of the animal protection movement, Warren, is a personal friend. When asked if given the outbreak of influenza, the animal agriculture industry would change their practices, she responded with: I don’t know what your experience has been, if it’s difficult to find information about that. But, my own personal perception, this is certainly not a view of my organization or anything like that, just a personal view, that, in general, agricultural groups tend to be pretty secretive. So it can be difficult to find out information about their plans for the future and any kind of big changes they would make… They have these pretty powerful industry groups and associations and what not and they can be very protective of any kind of information. They’re not very transparent from what I’ve seen. As a consumer, sure, that concerns me, but I think the public health community has seen more engagement with those partners which is encouraging.
  27. 27. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 27 This paper draws a clear connection between the housing conditions of animals raised for human consumption and the contribution of these conditions to the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in the United States. Since housing conditions of poultry on factory farms are ideal for a virus to reproduce and mutate, HPAI has had an easy time moving from farm to farm. Some public health experts predict HPAI will then jump from a poultry farm to a nearby hog farm where it will combine with swine flu, H1N1, or some other strand of influenza which easily effects humans. The result would be a virus which humans have no immunity to that is both highly contagious and highly deadly. The exact consequences of a virus like this reaching the general human population are unable to be accurately predicted. Dr. Akhtar, however, was able to offer a few predictions in a recent interview regarding the scale of an HPAI outbreak, were it to mutate to a form where it could be transmitted from humans to humans easily: I don’t know how many people we had on the planet at that time, maybe 2 billion? Now, we have close to 8 billion? We have more than 10 times that number of animals in farms now. So the chances of producing another virus in pigs or in birds, and that includes chickens or turkeys, is extremely high and the chances are that we will produce a virus that will be not only lethal in us, deadly like the 1918 virus, but also very contagious among humans like the 1918 virus. It’s also extremely high given the fact that there are more people now, so many more people that are traveling around the world. If and when such a pandemic occurs, it’s going to be far worse than what it was in 1918. That’s what I predict. If the government is not working on preventing similar future outbreaks, what will it take to prevent pandemics from emerging out of the animal agriculture industry in the future? Akhtar (personal communication, 10 December 2015) offers the following suggestion:
  28. 28. THE EFFECT OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE HOUSING CONDITIONS ON THE RECENT AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK 28 Honestly, the only way we can do it is that we have to significantly reduce the number of animals we eat. Every other fix that people think about is a band-aid. Nothing really gets to the heart of the problem. And the heart of the problem is that there is simply too many animals confined in too small spaces, living in miserable conditions so it’s so easy for viruses and bacteria to run amuck in these farms. The most significant measure we can take to prevent a pandemic coming from these farms is by reducing significantly the number of animals we eat so that we have far fewer animals in the first place on these farms.
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